The Screwtape Letters by
Publication Date: 2015-04-21
For years I have heard friends say that they read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters during Lent. This year I decided to pick up the old classic again and let it work its wisdom on my own Lenten reflections. First published in February 1942, the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter-in-training. This unique book’s popularity in both the UK and the US got Lewis on the cover of Time magazine in 1947, with a horned devil on his shoulder and an angel’s wing above his head. Eighty years later in our secularized and materialistic society, it is harder and harder for all of us to maintain an awareness, curiosity, and longing for the spiritual side of reality, perhaps especially in ‘church.’ And yet, I find it impossible to read even one of the 31 letters in this book and not see myself and my sincere but often clumsy desire for a relationship with God depicted in its pages. Like the Patient, I too am a believer but easily pulled from the abundant life in Christ toward thoughts and actions, however minor, that are ultimately empty idolatries. As Screwtape says to his student, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one— the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…” As it did the first time I read it, The Screwtape Letters remind me of the power of the rhythms of my life that are being formed by my daily choices. Lewis reminds us that human lives are formed as much by countless minor choices as they are by major life events. I move toward Easter this year with heightened awareness of my minor but faithful daily choices for holiness, short moments of prayer, and deep breaths with the Holy Spirit. These tiny pieces of faithfulness are building the new life we receive in the baptismal font.