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Resisting the Prowling Lion – Day 12

Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape

Day 12 – Tuesday after 2nd Sunday of Lent

To Read:

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’.


Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?   Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal.   (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father Below to withdraw his support from Him).   As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.   This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change.   Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation – the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.  

If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life – his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down.   As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.   The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

Your affectionate uncle


To Reflect:

Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Learning the Law of Undulation is perhaps the single most valuable lesson we may find in the whole of the Screwtape correspondence.  It is a truism of the spiritual life that there are peaks and troughs in our experience and devotion.  Lewis coins the phrase ‘undulation’ but those familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola will probably recognise the peaks and troughs of undulation as ‘consolations’ and ‘desolations’.

All of us go through times when there are spiritual mountaintops, during which we can attempt anything which our Lord asks of us.  Sadly we are also familiar with, and perhaps remember more readily, times when the journey of faith is hard, following is difficult, and being obedient to the command to love everyone is nigh on impossible.  It is very tempting to seek out the peaks of spiritual ecstasy and avoid the dark valleys of daily faithfulness (and My all-time favourite gospel singer Amy Grant wrote a song about the temptation to stay on the Mountain Top)

Ignatius teaches that the best growth happens in the darkness of the desolations of the journey – the deep troughs of Screwtape’s undulations.  These are the times when we must persevere most on the journey.  Sadly, these are also the times when many feel most tempted to give up and too easily forget the consolations – the times when we ride the crest of the wave of the spiritual journey.

If we do not recognise the ‘law of undulation’ at work within us then at the very least we will drift away from a faith which has become over-dependant on emotional ‘highs’ instead of grounded in spiritual reality.  At worst refusing to learn about our amphibian nature means we make a way open for Wormwood to try his hand at spinning lies about the reality of God’s love which, despite the ups and downs of our life, remains ever constant.

To Do:

Draw a ‘wave pattern’ of your spiritual journey.

Take whatever length of your past life you find helpful – birth to today, your adult life, last year or even just last month.

When you feel close to God you are at the top of a wave, when you feel distant you are at the bottom of a wave.

On completion look for two things:

  1. That the spiritual journey is indeed made up of undulations.
  2. That whether you are on the crest or in the trough of a wave God remains present.

A Psalm To Ponder:


Refrain:        Sustain me through the dry places, bring me to the beautiful country.

In the depths of my being you are my God, 

at the rising of the sun I seek your face.

My hearts thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you, 

in a barren and dry land where no water is.     Refrain:

I search for you in unexpected places, 

at the edges of the known, in the language of dreams, 

in the wilderness of the city streets, 

in the grim towers where the desperate dwell.     Refrain:

There may I look long and lovingly, 

there may I listen for the word beyond words, 

there may I wait for a glimpse of your glory, 

there may I utter strange songs of your praise.     Refrain:

For your love endures to the end, 

it is better even than life itself.

So shall my lips praise you, 

and I shall lift up my hands in your name.     Refrain:

With food, shelter, and clothing we shall be content: 

with simple dignity we shall be rich in friends.

The streets and squares of the city will be our meeting place, 

among the trees of the parks we shall breathe free and play.     Refrain:

With manna in my exile do you feed me, 

with water springing up from the parched land.

I am deeply satisfied with a sumptuous feast, 

my whole being resounds with murmurs of joy.     Refrain:

Courage have I found to face the creatures of the night, 

the terrible faces masking cries of abandonment, 

swords that glint in the darkness protecting the weak, 

jackals that swoop on those who dare near.     Refrain:

I am bewildered by mirrors distorting the truth, 

lost before hallucinations spun in the heat.

Yet will I trust you through the blindness of light, 

through the delusions that threaten to destroy me.     Refrain:

I hear you voice, Do not be afraid.

You sustain me in the watches of the night, 

your hovering wings give me shade on my journey.

I stumble, yet I trust you not to let go.     Refrain:

The faces of terror will prove my friends yet, 

guarding as they do my fragile soul-self, 

waiting the calm world of the approach of true love, 

waiting to be named as faithful and true.     Refrain:

So shall I emerge to the place of rejoicing, 

the child and the adult linked arm in arm.

We shall see your face in all your creatures, 

we shall know the truth in our hearts.     Refrain:

Pioneer of the living way, give us courage to traverse the waste and barren places, trusting that we shall come at the last to our true home and to the city of our God.  AMEN.

(Jim Cotter)


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

If you would like them as a daily email please send a request to vicar@felixparish.com


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

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