Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Week 5: The Screwtape Letters - Controlling Appetites
Letter 18 addresses sexual appetites. Screwtape gives a nod to the success poets and novelists have achieved in redefining "love" and thereby eroding the sanctity of marriage "by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually short-lived, experience which they call 'being in love' is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding." [Remember this was written in the early 1940's!] He also comments how the label "love" tends to be applied to any infatuation and used "to excuse a man from all the guilt, and to protect him from all the consequences, of marrying a heathen, a fool, or a wanton." People are easily swayed by emotion, sometimes to their own detriment. In counseling sessions I've often heard sin justified by emotion, as if we had no control over our emotions and expected to be ruled by them, rather than by God's revelation.
Letter 19 continues the theme of love. The love of God is explored, and misunderstood, by Screwtape and the demons. Satan's pride and lack of love has blinded him to having a correct understanding of God, who IS love, personifies love, as Scripture tells us. I've been thinking about how we tend to desire, even demand, that kind of love from others, yet seldom demonstrate that level of love ourselves. What a dangerous characteristic of the sin nature! Maybe it's just me, but I find this is something I constantly need to be alert to. God wants us to be focused on loving, not on "being loved." Too often we look at verses commanding US to love and twist it around in our minds to demand love from others. It's a good biblical practice to read those commands and focus on our own walk before God.... Am I being loving? Is that a loving thing for me to say? Is that a loving thing for me to do? Am I exhibiting a loving attitude? Am I building up or tearing down? Am I serving others or myself?
There's a commercial on TV that reminds me of the issue of "the ideal woman" raised in Letter 20. At the beginning you see a woman dressed in clothing from the early 20th Century. As she walks through the house, she pulls her dress off over her head to reveal the next stage of what was considered stylish dress. I don't remember what is being sold, but the ads make me realize what a silly thing "fashion" is and how people's idea of beauty changes so frequently over the years. When I was a child, Marilyn Monroe's voluptuousness was the fashion. When I became a teenager, Twiggy's boyish, anorexic image became the fashion. Screwtape writes, "As a result we are more and more directing the disires of men to something which does not exist - making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible." If that was true in the early 1940's, how much more unattainable is the "ideal" in the age of the air brush and Photoshop? Personally, I love candid shots of celebrities ... in their "natural" state most look just like the average person on the street, just skinnier. I remind myself that it's all smoke and mirrors, that outer beauty fades, but inner beauty grows as you walk obediently with the Lord. This is certainly an area that needs to be addressed in parenting. Helping your child develop a godly attitude and focus in life should be a parent's primary goal. The question that always helps me to get my thoughts back in the right place is, "What matters the most for eternity?" Those things need to be my priority.
[Week #1; Week #6]