Is there such a thing as things going too well?
My dear Wormwood,
Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. … He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.
For this reason I am almost glad to hear that he is still a churchgoer and a communicant. … And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognised, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately.
12.1) This series of letters talk about the friends we have / the things we do – how we can be influenced by them. Why is it important for the patient to not realize his true place with his various friends? Also think about the song “What a friend we have in Jesus”. Where is His friendship in all of this?
This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely …He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.
12.2) Screwtape now gets into something he calls the “dim uneasiness”. It’s something he doesn’t really understand – something he is a little worried about – something not under his control.
What is this “dim uneasiness”? (See John 14:15-17)
Why won’t God let it die?
OK – maybe this was sort of a trick question –
really designed to get one thinking.
What if it was –
Why can’t God let it die?
Why are we sometimes afraid of “it”?
As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. … And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.
12.3) Screwtape assumes that Wormwood will accomplish the suggestions he has given up to now. If he does – we see where Screwtape see this ending.
Screwtape talks about wasting time – and even reaching the point of wasting a life. Given that God probably won’t let the “dim uneasiness” completely die out – is Screwtape’s analysis necessarily a forgone conclusion? What does your answer mean to whether or not all that time is wasted?
Your affectionate uncle
12.4) We tend to think of sin in terms of relativeness. It’s like murder is worse than stealing and both are worse than gossip. Screwtape is afraid Wormwood may have the same idea. Why is Screwtape’s statement in the final paragraph of this letter so dangerously true? Given that it’s from Screwtape – which parts are untrue?
1. For this reason I am almost glad to hear that he is still a churchgoer and a communicant. I know there are dangers in this; but anything is better than that he should realise the break he has made with the first months of his Christian life.
communicant: someone who takes communion in church
2. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and out-going activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at least he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’
roistering: to party noisily or without restraint.