The first step.

I just got done reading The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. If you don’t know, the book is a collection of letters from an uncle demon to his nephew demon. His nephew is overseeing a “patient” who has recently become a Christian and they are trying to exploit his humanity and derail any gains for the kingdom, ultimately the goal being to have him walk away from his faith altogether. I started the book quite few times, but demonic things are creepy and I don’t love to give time to thinking of spiritual warfare. Also, Lewis is so much smarter than me it’s almost like reading another language until you find your groove. But I’m trucking through my 45 book goal and so this needed to be completed. I’m so glad I stuck with it.

Now a few days after completion and on the verge of a fresh conviction, I can’t help but think of what my assigned tormentor would be advised about me. Penning this out made me feel weirdly empowered.

Dearest darkest nephew of mine,

Great work in keeping her bouncing between exuberant soul crushing comfort and overzealous expectations of sacrifice. Take care to never let her settle on a point in between the two. Make sure she stays convinced that if she finds herself not doing something extravagant for the kingdom, she might as well be floating down a lukewarm lazy river to hell.

I see you’ve also accomplished much by surrounding her with suburban dreams and keeping her striving for superficial affirmations from the world. Distraction is a beautiful thing in keeping her from any sort of good works. Make sure she confuses the gospel to mean if she died in that selfish state, she’d spend eternity apart from her savior. Keep her believing his saving grace is reserved for past sins and missionaries or something but not powerful enough for her idolatry of present choice.

Guilt is powerfully crippling to His people—a really quite dumb group of folks that don’t realize He’s once and for all removed their guilt with the cross. Silly creatures, indeed.

But dear Nephew, I must warn you… she swings like a pendulum, so be careful. If the Holy Spirit does stir in her, she’ll be ready to act with a fiery passion. You might feel she is unstoppable and any cause to derail her would be futile. Take heart though, she’s been here before and accomplished nothing. All you have to do is water the pessimistic flower that blooms in the garden of God’s love for her. Sure, she believes she’s likeable and capable on the surface, nonetheless she is easily swayed by the thorn of insecurity in her chest. On no real level does she feel wholly loved and accepted by those around her, so logic would prove in our favor to convince her that her Holy God should despise her all the more.

Even still, if you can’t get her consumed with earning His approval, remember the solid fear tactic at our disposal. Paralyze her with anxiety over an inconvenient truth. You see, she really does believe the deepest parts inside are calling her out of comfort and into His selfless service. She’s not like the prosperity Christians who shake their fist at God when things get hard. No, on the contrary, she anticipates the hardship. She embraces the realization that God did not spare His own son, nor did He call his beloved disciples to the ease of life, so she expects troubles. She’s prone to doubt God’s goodness. We can easily use this to stall her hopeful efforts of servanthood.

Trust me. I’ve seen it before in this one. She will stand at the door of decision, willingly herself to walk through it, but petrified of what trial or push back might await on the other side. She believes any growth will be for her best, but her past reminds her His best for her often hurts like a brain tumor or a called off wedding. It’s obviously best to have her look upon these altars with fear and trembling, but abort the mission before she stares long enough to remember her strength. And definitely don’t let her dwell on the positives that were birthed of each.

I recognize the look in her eyes, and I can see by the books she’s been reading that plans for the kingdom are brewing in her brain. They are big plans, that require energy and effort. Her maker has given her all the tools to see it through. Let us instead, occupy her time with elaborate plans that she’s likely never to execute. Encourage her to spend time in the details or daydreaming about the joyful fulfillment should it come to fruition. And very little time on the practicality of taking that first step.

I repeat, do not allow that first step. She will most assuredly be lost to us then.

Good luck to you,

Your sinister uncle.



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