The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks


July 21, 2020

One of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis is The Screwtape Letters, which is written from the perspective of a demon named Screwtape instructing another demon on how to tempt a young man into hell. It’s one of my favorites, because Lewis has a keen understanding of human people and does a terrific job of observing the habits we fall into that weaken us spiritually. In one particular letter, Screwtape talks about using pleasures to tempt the young man. He explains that all people experience a restlessness that comes from their spiritual state. Because we will not face the fact that we are not happy, we turn to all manner of things to avoid dealing with our heart condition. This starts with real pleasures and slowly degrades into less and less enticing distractions. He points out that we often skip prayer time because we have a good book we want to read (or in the modern context a movie we’ve boon looking forward to), but as time goes on, it takes less and less to distract us because we are trying to avoid dealing with our hunger for spiritual sustenance. As a result, a good book devolves into a collection of advertisements in the newspaper or something equally dull. Entertainment quickly becomes anything that helps us avoid the emptiness in our souls.

While reading Screwtape’s letter on entertainment this morning, my cell phone sent me my weekly notification as to how much time I spent each day looking at it. I’m going to save myself some embarrassment and not share the specifics, but it was far more time wasting than I care to admit to. The really odd thing about it is that most of my phone time isn’t particularly great. I scroll my Facebook feed and/or Twitter. I’m looking at things that aren’t particularly enriching. In fact, they often make me angry or frustrated. None of it helps me grow spiritually. For the most part, it’s exactly what Screwtape described: distraction so I don’t have to do the harder work of feeding my soul. Prayer is kinda hard. Reflection is difficult. Reading my Bible and looking inward is challenging. Looking for ways to love my neighbor is work. Trying to grow to be more like Jesus can be exhausting. Swiping my thumb over my iPhone screen to look at cat memes is like a digital vacation. Choosing between the two often looks like offering my kids vegetables or candy to eat. They’ll always choose the candy. Unfortunately, candy doesn’t do anything for your health. In the same way, the mindless time-wasting junk that surrounds me does nothing to improve my spiritual condition. Of course, the biggest challenge in this effort to choose the spiritual vegetables over mental sugar is the effort involved. We don’t burn 2 or 3 hours a day playing Candy Crush because it takes effort. We do it because it’s easy, mindless, and we drift into it. Spiritually nourishing activities take effort and intentionality. We have to set aside time when we are going to do it, then actually do it. We often need accountability to keep ourselves on the path. Healthy habits take effort to establish and maintain. Mindless junk doesn’t. Therefore, we must intentionally choose to do the work and feed our spiritual hunger.


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