Significant Books, Part VII

The rude, uncomfortable human self-portrait presented in The Screwtape Letters puts me to shame every time I read it. But it's the sort of healthy shame that I need provoked with - the fact that the Creator put in us dignity, purpose and love, and our sin and selfishness are perversions of that.

Lewis shows how "devils" love perversion, confusion, and vacant minds. Haziness and tepidity delight them. They love it when we make God little in our minds, defining our spiritual lives by emotions or social perceptions. But despite their diabolical power, they are entirely crippled by virtue, and especially sincere humility - what Lewis called the "real nakedness of the soul in prayer."

...if he ever consciously directs his prayers "Not to what I think thou art, but to what thou knowest thyself to be," our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with full recognition of their subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it -- why, then it is that the incalculable may occur.
We so often forget that we are serving a fathomless, infinite, incomprehensible Being. If only we would worship Him with awe! The more we fear the Lord, the more we're aware of the stupidity of our sins, but the amazing thing is that the more we stand in awe of our Creator, the more we understand who we are, because we're made in His beautiful image.
Remember, always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd amount of value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.
There are so many things addressed in this little book, but one that strikes me especially hard, especially during the season of Lent, is the importance of submitting the will to God. No matter how much I think or talk about loving Him, it's all for nothing if I don't actually obey Him.
The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which an enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination will harm us if we can keep it out of his will.
The Screwtape Letters makes the list of my significant books because it opened my eyes to the constant raging of spiritual warfare and heightened my perception of God, not as a someone we define, but as someone who defines us.

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