Finding God's Winning Spirit

Undulation

November 4, 2013 | Greg Smith | Christianity

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Back in the 70’s I was attending Auburn University where I was majoring in Speech Communication and pursuing a double minor in religion. It was there that I first ran across the writings of C.S. Lewis. Because, like Lewis, I was coming to Christianity from a somewhat skeptical background - he was the man.

I am telling you this because last winter I sort of ran into C.S. Lewis again. I attended a one-man play based on Screwtape the senior demon created by Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters. This led me to find and re-read my old copy.

I ran across this passage of Screwtape advising his nephew Wormwood on how to use man’s inevitable fluctuation of spirituality/faith:

"Their (Christians) nearest approach to consistency, therefore, is undulation – the repeated return to the level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life – his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down.  As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make good use of it."

What a great word “undulation”. What better word to describe the pilgrimage we call the Christian life. We all need to take a minute and really understand the inevitable undulation of our Christian walk. How freeing it would be for many of us to have permission to undulate – for it to be OK to not have to maintain some preconceived and impossible spiritual level – for us to know God is God, that he is ever present and always loving no matter how we feel.

Permission to undulate frees us from freaking out when we have a bad day or do not feel especially spiritual or faithful. Understanding undulation allows us to embrace the possibility that even in our downtimes God sometimes does his best work. Once again let me quote Screwtape:

"Now it may surprise you to learn that in His (God) efforts to get permanent possession of the soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of the special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else."

Two things come to mind here. First, I believe that Lewis is correct by proposing that Satan (Screwtape) knows us better than we know ourselves. Secondly, although it is true that we are told to believe in things unseen, it is also true that we must sometimes believe in things unfelt.

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