Introductory Note:

Yesterday, Richard Foster looked at living what he calls a “time-full” life—one that makes space and time within the hurry and hustle of life.

Today, C.S. Lewis adds an “Amen,” with this short piece from his satirical novel, The Screwtape Letters. One devil counsels another on how best to draw their human victims out of the hands of the Enemy (God) and into perdition. This particular excerpt considers how too great a fixation upon the future leads to all sorts of devilish merriment and very little preparation for eternity.

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Screwtape Letters

The humans live in time but our Ene­my des­tines them to eter­ni­ty. He there­fore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eter­ni­ty itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touch­es eter­ni­ty. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an expe­ri­ence anal­o­gous to the expe­ri­ence which our Ene­my has of real­i­ty as a whole; in it alone free­dom and actu­al­i­ty are offered them. He would there­fore have them con­tin­u­al­ly con­cerned either with eter­ni­ty (which means being con­cerned with Him) or with the Present — either med­i­tat­ing on their eter­nal union with, or sep­a­ra­tion from, Him­self, or else obey­ing the present voice of con­science, bear­ing the present cross, receiv­ing the present grace, giv­ing thanks for the present pleasure.

Our busi­ness is to get them away from the eter­nal, and from the Present. With this in view, we some­times tempt a human (say a wid­ow or a schol­ar) to live in the Past. But this is of lim­it­ed val­ue, for they have some real knowl­edge of the past and it has a deter­mi­nate nature and, to that extent, resem­bles eter­ni­ty. It is far bet­ter to make them live in the Future. Bio­log­i­cal neces­si­ty makes all their pas­sions point in that direc­tion already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in mak­ing them think about it, we make them think of unre­al­i­ties. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eter­ni­ty. It is the most com­plete­ly tem­po­ral part of time — for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eter­nal rays.… Hence near­ly all vices are root­ed in the future. Grat­i­tude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambi­tion look ahead.…

To be sure, the Ene­my wants men to think of the Future too — just so much as is nec­es­sary for now plan­ning the acts of jus­tice or char­i­ty which will prob­a­bly be their duty tomor­row. The duty of plan­ning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its mate­r­i­al is bor­rowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present.… But we want a man hag-rid­den by the Future.… We want a whole race per­pet­u­al­ly in pur­suit of the rainbow’s end, nev­er hon­est, nor kind, nor hap­py now, but always using as mere fuel where­with to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.” 

Excerpt­ed from The Screw­tape Let­ters by C.S. Lewis (this excerpt edit­ed by Lyn­da Gray­beal). San Fran­cis­co: Harper­San­Fran­cis­co, 1996, pp. 75 – 78.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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