Shaking Our Fists

Shaking Our Fists

Acknowledging our anger with God
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In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis creates a fictional correspondence between a demon, Screwtape, and his nephew, Wormwood. Screwtape advises Wormwood in his endeavors to derail one man's (the "patient") journey towards God (the "Enemy"). Rather than making a solid point about the presence and role of demons in the world, Lewis uses this format to expose a myriad of subtleties about humans and their tendencies, and offers insight for true spiritual growth.

The "letter" I've written below is an imitation of Lewis's work in an effort to examine the vulnerable and often fearful experience of feeling anger towards God. Keep in mind that it is written from Screwtape's perspective and that he is working with all his might to keep people from the unfathomable love and truth of God.

My dear Wormwood,

I am highly pleased with the progress of your patient. You've kept him from growing into real experiences of contentment and joy by keeping him fixated on the superficial and simplistic idea of being happy. After his brother's death, the patient struggled a bit, yes, and you must be always on guard for these internal battles. But on the whole you have successfully brought him to a posture of passive acceptance before the Enemy for these circumstances. You have reminded him—through choruses, through certain isolated verses of the Book (Brilliant, I might add), and most importantly, through fear of not "looking like" the Enemy—that his only calling is to move on with his life, singing merrily down the way. You have kept him busy at his office and have directed him in so many home duties that he hardly sits still to eat a bowl of soup. Even at his church, he is praised for his strength and consistency and made into quite the model citizen. Very well done.
You see, Wormwood, were your patient to listen to the struggle within him—were he to be free of these distractions and the silly notion that he would somehow, as a follower of the Enemy, be beyond the set of feelings with which he was created—he might actually experience something which so many Enemy followers dread and even renounce. He might feel something primal unleashed within himself. Now, listen closely, nephew: this wild beast that we know well as Anger and often use to our advantage can be a most deadly tool in the Enemy's hands. If your patient begins to experience Anger, do everything in your power to bring him out of solitude and into the living room, the kitchen, the yard, the car—any place where he will encounter other people. Let him remember all he has been taught about patience and kindness; the longer he persists in those "virtues" while carrying his anger within, the greater the explosion when the dam finally breaks. What we do not want, Wormwood, is for his anger to surface during prayer. At that point, all progress with the patient will be lost and we will be forced to make a new plan or abandon our plans for him altogether.
What you may not yet realize, nephew, is that the deepest parts of a person—those parts which we work to seal up, those parts in which we burrow—when opened up and merely exposed to the Enemy, tend to bind the man to his Creator in an intimacy unmatchable. Honest communication between the Enemy and the patient is burst open; our purposes are thwarted through and through. The patient soon learns that the fear of raising his voice or fist to the Enemy—the fear we work so hard to instill in him—is unfounded before such an expanse of supremacy, as the Enemy is the only being with the capacity to receive such anger fully, while maintaining his posture and nature securely. The beautiful cycle of anger is dissolved into nothing—yea, into even more horrid than nothing: into peace and quietness. And unlike the usual confidences of a person, this calmness is one the patient rarely understands for himself, leaving us no calculated thought onto which we can latch.
So, dear nephew, I commend your good work—but never be lazy. The Enemy has a way of sneaking in—even through paths we ourselves carve and guard—to lure these creatures in their most delightful weakness to where he is.
Your affectionate uncle,
Screwtape
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