I have been reading this book, CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, for time enough now that I am starting to see some themes repeating across the letters, in a clarifying and prioritizing kind of way. The pattern or reiteration I’m seeing currently is that of the importance of our living in the present. Not the past. Not the future. Our minds should only be set upon the ‘right now’ -- and on eternity. Screwtape says “For the present is the point in which time touches eternity”. Love this!
Why not the past –
Reflecting on the past has limited value. Yes, we can learn from what we’ve experienced and been through, and wonderful memories are stored in our past. Gratitude is past-generated. But, we can get into spiritual trouble when we ‘get stuck’ in the bad things of the past. Not only does this make us miserable and steals our current joy, but – as Screwtape acknowledges – focusing on the past takes our mind away from present and eternal thinking. He states the past is “frozen and no longer flows”. And, who wants to live there?
Why not the future -
If you have been reading along with The Screwtape Letters, you have probably noticed that our anxiety is frequently a point of intrigue for the demons. Anxiety is a uniquely human condition and one in which the enemy capitalizes upon for our destruction at every available chance. Now, we know (although we don’t always remember) that all the worrying in the world has no impact whatsoever on what will or won’t happen in the future. So, worry, from a practical standpoint, is a major waste of our precious time. Spiritually, worrying and being anxious is our telling God, essentially, that we don’t think He can handle the situation - like we’re His equivalent, His backup.
It gets really interesting in this Letter when Screwtape says that “thought about the future inflames fear and hope”. Hang on a minute. What? I get the fear part, but what is wrong with having hope? Well, my interpretation here is that human hope – hope in humanity, hope in my own abilities and strengths, hope as a ‘wish list’ for what I want, hope as any expectation constructed by me – is foolish, at best, and just plain incompatible with faith and trust in God.
One clarification regarding the pitfalls of future thinking: Planning is OK, it is a Godly practice, a “present” activity. Planning is a “duty of today” in preparation for tomorrow’s work (God’s will in motion).
But, in the present –
When we’re in the present, we get to focus on God, on an eternal union with Him. As Screwtape says, in the now, we can find ourselves “obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, (and) giving thanks for the present (Godly) pleasure”. There is freedom in the present, as we unplug from both the past and from the future. Screwtape talks about the grace and peace found when, at the end of the day (literally), we can “wash our mind of the whole subject (whatever the day brought), commit the issue to heaven, and return at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over”. What a great daily goal!
Now, this Letter does get a bit ‘uncomfortable’ toward the end. Screwtape refers to the ambiguity of “living in the present” when we can only do it because “our health is good and we are enjoying our work”. Anybody – Believer or not – can float along in a comfy, present-oriented existence when everything is going good and we’ve convinced ourselves that the future is going to be just as “agreeable” as the present. But, what about when it’s not? How do we find (and hold on to) peace in the present when we know full well that the future is not looking good? It is in these times that we should be praying for the Godly “virtues”, those that will sustain us through any pain, any storm. We should continue to concern ourselves only with the present “because there, and there alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell”. I just gotta say it, “The present is a gift”.
One of my favorite scriptures:
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.” John 14:27
P.S. Our pastor said the other day in a sermon that “eternal life starts now”. We tend to think it starts when we die and go to heaven, but it really does start right now, from the minute we accept Jesus as our Savior. How cool is that?!
Mercy. It's a thing. Tee Shirt, Small
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Mercy. It's a thing. Tee Shirt, Large
Exclusive Faith By Dummy Blog tee, designed by Abby. Soft, Cotton Blend shirt. Unisex sizing. Size Large.Ink is a vintage, creamy white color.
I started a Word Wall today for people to post one word that describes their mom, and I chose “Warrior” for my mom.
My mom’s life was not always what she wanted it to be. In fact, at times, I think it sucked. But, I never heard my mom say a single bad word about anybody or anything. She never complained, never griped or moaned. Never became bitter. My mom also stuck to her guns on things she believed in, mostly in Jesus. She dug in quietly, silently, steadfastly. She was so stubborn sometimes it drove me nuts. I hated it when she was right, and she always was.
I could go into how my mom died a God-awful death from Alzheimer’s, but I’m not going to go there. At least not today. I just want to say that my mom was, indeed, a Warrior. And to quote Pat Benatar (not scriptural, I know), I hope she’s up in heaven singing “I am a Warrior and Victory is mine”.
Rock on, mom.
Book Review and Giveaway – Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters by Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh, 2019. SHARE or COMMENT on this post for a chance to win a free copy, given away on Weds., May 8, 2019.
I just finished reading this book as a Reviewer. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how relevant the topic of mom-daughter relationship ‘mending’ would be for me. I am a daughter, but my mom passed away 15 years ago. And, even while she was still here, I don’t recall any big, relationship-crushing fallouts between us. I am now a mom, but I have only sons, so I was not sure how I could use this book geared toward mothers and daughters.
Yet, I know many, many adult daughters who do have ‘unfinished business’ with their mom – and many moms that have things left undone with their daughter – and for them that’s a big deal (and it should be). So, this book must be highly relevant for a lot of people, including my blog readers. Besides, any book with potential for bringing healing in a family through the application of biblical truths is definitely worth a look.
This book is co-written by a mother (grandmother, therapist) and her adult daughter, sharing their own story of refining and strengthening themselves, as individuals and as a mother-daughter dyad, through thoughtful and intentional application of the Word. Not only scripturally sound, the writers’ insights and suggestions are real, understandable, and do-able. They even provide models and scripts for key steps, like how to start an awkward conversation, or how to move forward from a ‘discussion’ gone horribly wrong (e.g., screaming, crying, stalemate). Check out the book’s free resource, “Seven Ways to Start a Conversation”, at www.ourmendedhearts.com
There are also a number of inspiring anecdotals included in the book, told by friends and faith sisters of the authors who have refined their relationships with their own mom/daughter. The specific scenarios shared for illustration were not always directly relatable for me, as I think the authors and I come from quite different backgrounds. Yet, I found the underlying parent-child dynamics (and struggles) to be pretty universal. With that said, I would suggest this book would be valuable for anyone in any type of family relationship (spouse, parent-son, sibling) that could use a tune-up, whether it’s to just improve communication or to herd out the proverbial elephant in the room.
As a disclaimer: I am not paid to review or recommend this book. I was given a copy to read and one extra copy of the book by the publisher for the giveaway. If you decide to order the book through my Amazon link, I do receive a commission that helps to support my blog.