He may be one of our greatest Christian writers ever, but I have to admit that I am late to the game when it comes to reading C.S. Lewis. Maybe that’s just God’s timing so that my Spirit and mind are actually prepared for the depths of what Lewis has to say.
At any rate, I have just begun “The Screwtape Letters,” a collection of correspondence between Screwtape, an Undersecretary of the Devil, and his nephew, Wormwood, who also happens to be new to the job of making sure the people he’s been assigned stay on the devil’s side instead of God’s.
Early on in the correspondence, Screwtape reminds Wormwood that “He [God] wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”
At first glance, the two parts of this statement may not seem that different, but actually they are worlds apart. If I am worried about what will happen to me, several bad consequences occur. First, I am centered on myself instead of paying attention to other people. Even if my worries about my future are about other people, making me think I am being altruistic, they are ultimately self-centered.
When I concentrate on future what-ifs, I am wasting my time as well as God’s. Didn’t Jesus tell us to concern ourselves only with this day, as it has enough problems of its own? Did He not also tell us not to worry because God takes care of us?
Thinking about what will happen to us usually also makes us focus on more materialistic things. Worry traps us into what we can see, feel and touch. The more we are drawn to the things of this world, the further away we are from God. “Where your treasure is,” Christ told us, “there will your heart be also.”
On the flipside, if we are concerned about what we do, we are smack dab in the middle of the only thing we truly have, which is this moment. To seize the day in this way, by thinking about our current actions, means we can be free to think outward.
Thinking outside ourselves means seeing the real needs of others and doing something about it. It means realizing the immediate effects of our actions. It means we have the opportunity to stop ourselves from sinning before we get caught up in it.
Doing instead of fretting is an even bigger challenge in our modern world. With telephones, television and the internet, we can go for ages without physically interacting with anyone. We can go our whole lives without meeting our neighbors face-to-face. And what we don’t actually see in person is very easy to push aside. Hasn’t watching television news footage our whole lives desensitized us to what we see on the screen, making it seem somehow not real?
In the moment, doing and interacting with our fellow wanderers, these are the times when we are on the same page with God. When we concentrate on what we are doing instead of worrying about what might be, we come the closest to loving others as God loves us.
Now, if I can just carpe diem God’s way every time I catch myself fretting instead of paying attention to what I am doing, I will already have learned a wonderful lesson from “The Screwtape Letters,” even though I’ve only just begun reading them.