Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape
Day 3 – Friday after Ash Wednesday
From The Screwtape Letters:
Screwtape, a senior demon, is offering advice to Wormwood his nephew, an apprentice demon. The language he uses is ‘upside down’ referring to God as ‘the Enemy’ and the devil as ‘Our Father Below’.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD
When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.
Your affectionate uncle
Having cleared the hurdle of praying with proper intention how do we go on to the more difficult obstacle of living with, and praying for, people who irritate and annoy us? More particularly how do we cope with this when the ‘irritant’ is numbered amongst our nearest and dearest?
Screwtape is correct in knowing that familiarity breeds contempt and, if we are not careful, we easily fall into the trap of thinking that everybody else is the problem with our life and we are never to blame for anything at all! If we go down this path far enough we end up believing that the world would be perfect if only everyone agreed to do things ‘my way’…..
How do we avoid allowing the habits and actions of others to become centres for sin in our own life? After all, as Wormwood was taught, the other person is blissfully unaware of how irritating they are and can do little to change. If we ever mentioned to them how the incessant whistling through their teeth, the relentless tapping of their fingers, the maddening picking at their teeth made us so angry they would be most astonished. Here is a trick of the tempter indeed. Turning the little quirks and habits of our loved ones, which used to endear us, into irritants and so transform our love into resentment. So sad…..
We must be on our guard against such things and learn to protect our love for those around us. I sometimes try to invest my care for those near to me by asking myself if I have learnt to not only love them but cherish them as well? Loving someone, especially those we are ‘expected’ to love, can easily become a duty whereas choosing to cherish seems to me to be more of an active service. Here is perhaps ammunition with which to fight the temptation to irritation. If we but learnt to cherish the whole life of those close to us we might begin to see their annoying habits as simply quirks of character. These habits. instead of being actions and habits which drive us crazy, can become – if we but let the Holy Spirit work in our lives – the very things which endear them to us even more.
Every year on Valentine’s Day we are encouraged to appreciate and cherish those to whom we have given our hearts and lives. I have an idea. How about making the time until Easter into a Valentine’s Lent? After all Valentine’s Day is not just for those who are young in love, and not just for those couples blessed with a single love, but for all who want to show the world that it is beloved of God.
Next time you are irritated by someone’s actions ask yourself which habits of your own might themselves be an irritant to those around you.
Then change your own habit….
Find at least one new way of cherishing someone close to you before Easter Day.
A Psalm To Ponder:
Psalm 1 – THE TWO WAYS – A WISDOM SONG
Refrain: Keep us true to your Way.
Woe to us when we walk in the way of wickedness,
when we bend our ear to the counsel of deceit,
and scoff at what is holy from the seat of pride. Refrain:
Blessings upon us when we delight in the truth if God,
and ponder God’s Law by day and by night,
when we stand up for the truth in face of the lie,
when we mouth no slogans and betray no friends. Refrain:
We struggle with evil in our hearts,
tossed to and fro like chaff in the wind,
a rootless people whose lives have no meaning,
unable to stand when judgment comes,
desolate, outside the house of our God. Refrain:
May ways of wickedness perish among us:
forgive us, O God, and renew us,
lead us in the paths of justice and truth,
obedient to your Wisdom and Will,
trusting in the hope of your promise. Refrain:
Giver of life, save us from the desert of faithlessness and nourish us with the living water of your Word, that we may bring forth fruit that will last, in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour. AMEN.
Please Note: These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin
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Quotes from The Screwtape Letters are copyright © 1942 C.S. Lewis Pte
Prayers from Psalms for a Pilgrim People are copyright © 1989, 1991, 1993 Jim Cotter
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Resisting the Prowling Lion’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023