Recently I heard a sermon about temptation and how, just as we can be lead by God, we can also be lead by Satan–and that Jesus was effectively lead by the Devil during his trial in the desert (Luke 4: 1-13)! When our preacher mentioned this, it made sense logically, but it seemed too incredible to be true. My mind consented, but my heart and soul were skeptics. There was much food for thought in this sermon, so I shelved the idea and chewed on some other things.
This past Sunday, I was preparing myself for church and had picked up The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. I’ve been reading it slowly, a letter at a time, and had come to letter XXI. I read the following paragraph:
Men are not angered by mere misfortune, but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now you have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tete-a-tete with the friend), that throws him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. (The Screwtape Letters, Simon & Schuster Touchstone edition, pg 79.)
Ah! Here was an angle on being lead by the enemy that I could understand! Do I make claims on life? You bet! I have a schedule that I keep and nothing makes me feel more stressed than realizing the empty slots–which I subconsciously label as “MY time”–are getting eaten into by additional duties, conversations and engagements which I did not plan.
I had an immediate opportunity to be tested. I received a call that the family that was planning on hosting a meeting that afternoon had sick children, and could we please move the meeting to our home? I would have said “yes” anyway, but as I switched gears from planning to attend Sunday School to picking up the house I had to continually give that sense of infringement on “my time” to God. Next, during the service, I had forgotten I was scheduled to read the New Testament passage. I had to practice the presence of Christ as I rehearsed the reading of a ridiculously tricky translation from Philippians 3, because the stress and worry about not being good enough was threatening to block any ability I might have to find Christ in the scripture. Next, I sat waiting for communion feeling small and defeated, acknowledging to God my inability to gracefully move into these “outside but ordained” events, John touched my arm & signaled. Another woman in the church was frantically pointing to the back of the bulletin and then to me. I was scheduled to pray for people during communion As I went forward to take communion prior to taking my place, I prayed “Well Lord, you always do your best work through me when I’m feeling the smallest. Just let me get out of your way today.” There were no miraculous healings Sunday, but I do know that I felt free to listen for what the Lord had for those who came to me for prayer on Sunday. There was grace enough for that, at least.
Since Sunday I’ve continued to experience random demands on my time and I continue to struggle with the sense of injury and infringement–particularly in light of the fact that I believe one of the things I’m called to right now is to take care of myself better. These demands are stressful for me to navigate, but getting them resolved internally is an important aspect of taking care of myself.
Today I finished Lewis’ letter XXI and read this:
And all the time the joke is that the word “mine” in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. In the long run either Our Father [Satan] or the Enemy will say “mine” of each thing that exists and specially of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls and their bodies really belong–certainly not to them, whatever happens. At present, the Enemy says “mine” to everything on the pedantic, legalistic ground that He made it. Our Father hopes in the end to say “mine” of all things on the more realistic and dynamic ground of conquest.
The story of Christ in the desert being lead around by Satan isn’t just a vignette it’s a way we can live our life! Is there really anything that is our own only? Isn’t every good thing we have a gift from God? It is true that if we are not moving towards God, we are moving away from him. Let us resolve again to turn away from the temptations to control our own hungers, our spiritual life and even God himself, and turn back to Him as the only one worthy of our time, our sacrifice, our worship.
Lord, I give you “my time” today. I give you my plans and attempt to release them fully to you. Let me see each alteration to my schedule as an opportunity to do your work, even if it means saying “no” in a way that honors the interruption. Thank you for your grace that provides the cushioning between all of our relationships and fills in the gaps for every one of your children. Amen.