I love the novel “The Screwtape Letters”, by C. S. Lewis. For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s the tale of Uncle Screwtape, a senior demon who instructs his nephew Wormwood in the art of beguiling his assigned human, or “patient”. The aim is to get the “patient” away from the “Enemy” and steer him towards “Our Father Below”. The letters they pass back and forth contain detailed instructions from uncle to nephew, who in turn responds with feedback on how his assignment is progressing.
The reason I mention this book, is because as I was out walking with my husband this morning, my mind started to wander. We were praying as we walked, as is our custom and one of the topics was giving thanks for the gift of time. We consider it a blessing to be able to spend time at home. We don’t feel trapped or stuck, in fact we see this as a gift from the Lord. My husband has an hour to walk with me, rather than commute to work. I cook “takeaway” meals to bless my children with. I bake treats for my son to take with him when he’s working away from home. I am able to take care of my grandson while his mum is working. I consider all of this a privilege and right now that is how I worship. My ministry has shrunk to my family and the few close friends I connect with via technology.
This sounds good and right, doesn’t it? If it wasn’t for two pesky voices, that is. You might not have considered this, but bear with me, because I bet you are very familiar with these twin demons and as I continue you will recognize their voices. They are twins…two scrawny little demons with squeaky voices, not highly valued and honored amongst the demon ranks. They don’t have any ambition to become principalities and nobody writes books about them either. In fact, they are so obscure that Christians seldom recognize their evil plots and often collude with them, totally unaware of the damage they are causing. Remember the little foxes of Song of Solomon 2 v 15?
You must catch the troubling foxes,
those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship.
For they raid our budding vineyard of love
to ruin what I’ve planted within you.
Will you catch them and remove them for me?
We will do it together.
These two are foxes indeed…sly, conniving and fast. Their names? Should and Should-not. To get back to my walk. I started to hear this conversation in my head. Should and Should-not were talking strategy and in the style of C.S. Lewis, I would love to share some of that with you.
“So how can we torment those Christians today?”, Should asked Should-not. It was obvious that he was enjoying the thought of causing some havoc. No surprises there. “Not sure”, Should-not said. Every demon in hell knew he wasn’t the smart twin, and he was a little bit scared of being clipped around the ear, as often happened when he gave Should an answer he didn’t like.
“Well, we know they’re all holed up in their homes at the moment. It should be easy to mess with their heads.” Should sounded very confident, but Should-not wasn’t convinced. “You do remember they have not a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind? That hasn’t changed, has it?” “Should-not, do you always have to be so negative? Glass half full! I keep telling you, you lack ambition. One of these days…so help me!” Should-not ducked, just in case.
“Now pay attention, Should-not. I am going to spell it out for you. This is the plan…we are going to get them to do it to one another.” “Should, you are brilliant!” Should-not said. “How are we going to do it?”
“To start, we are going to inspire them to put guilt and condemnation on each other. If they start telling each other what should and should not happen while they are having their time out, they will turn on each other before you can say ‘hell and damnation’, that much is sure.” “Secondly, if we can get them to focus on everything they are missing out on, they will start to grumble and moan and forget all about the blessings they have. Remember the Israelites? When we got them to see desert and manna and manna and desert, they soon forgot about God’s provision and complained. It still gives me goosebumps to think of all those quail! Man, how funny was that?! Our greatest accomplishment so far. Boy, they were in such trouble.” Should was now laughing so hard, he almost folded double.
“Yes, Should, yes, but they have become much smarter now. I hope you have a better plan.”
“Oh, you of little faith! Should-not, I have a brilliant plan. We are going to use this social isolation thing against them. What do Christians like more than to correct each other online? Or in person, for that matter. Everyone thinks he or she is an authority on the Bible and they don’t think twice about correcting people they don’t know. We are just going to set them loose. If we can get someone to post something a little controversial, sooner or later a cat fight will break out. All we have to do is sit back and enjoy the show.” Should looked very smug. He continued: “we will get someone to post an opinion on what everyone else should or should not be doing. It always works. These people are so easily offended, it’s hilarious.”
“What do you mean Should?” Should-not was obviously a little slow on the uptake. Should was getting a little bit frustrated, but decided to humor Should-not. “You know how they are not supposed to meet on Sundays? Well, if some do and word gets out there will be a stir, wouldn’t there. Some will defend them; others will condemn them and the whole world will be watching. It’s a flawless plan.”
“And if we can get someone to tell everyone else they should be doing more to evangelize, or worship or read the Word instead of watching Netflix or take the dog for a walk, they will feel guilt and condemnation when they rest or enjoy themselves” Should-not said.
“Should-not, now you’re getting the picture! Once they feel guilty, they will do more and more, or beat themselves up when they enjoy a walk, some quiet time or an activity with their children. The busier they get, the harder they will work, the more stressed they feel and the easier our job is. They will turn on those who are at rest, who get off their hamster wheels and they will do our job for us. They will tell everyone else what they should and should not do. No-one will even think to speak to the Spirit before doing anything. We have to stop them from entering rest.” Should leaned back, confident that his plan was fool proof.”
I was thinking on these things as I too heard Should and Should-not whisper in my ear. Yesterday, as I was reading a novel while watching my grandson nap, I heard the voice “you should be doing Bible study, instead of reading a novel.” I heard Should-not when I turned off the worship music to enjoy the absolute quiet house when my work-from-home, always-talking-on-the-phone husband went into the office. I heard Should loud and clear through social media, trying to put guilt and condemnation on me because we haven’t done a Facebook live session, haven’t emailed the missionaries I won’t be visiting this year to check up on their welfare and I haven’t done anything to bless my neighbors in this time, amongst a myriad of other things. So much I should be doing, according to people I have never met.
So…Should, Should-not…get thee behind me, devils. I am going to take a break and put my feet up. I am going to enjoy every moment of this God-given opportunity to recharge my batteries, reconnect with my loved ones, I am going to enter the rest of the Lord and take naps. Regardless of what you two have to say, I know I am loved for who I am, not for what I do, and for now, I intend to do nothing unless Holy Spirit directs me to do it.