Friday, April 25, 2014

Troughs and Peaks

(I need to go through and re-read this again and edit it, I might be repeating myself as I've had many interruptions throughout the day as I've tried to write this, but it's time to curl my hair for date night, so I gotta go, I'll check this later... and put a few more pictures in...)
I've been rereading The Screwtape Letters after having listened to it on cd during our trip to California last week. It is in my stack of favorite books. I love Lewis’ thought process through the whole thing. It's like reading Neal A. Maxwell, in that each sentence is just packed with simple profoundness. It takes work to digest it.

So, since it does take work, I didn't glean any new insights during the CA drive, I think cause of all the simple interruptions that came with driving with the whole family in the car. But, since it was still in the cd player, I listened to it this week after I drove home from taking Joseph to band, which is a good 30 minute drive. This was on Wednesday. Tuesday, the day before, I had hit the bottom after 3 days of wave crashing mood. Tuesday there was a storm rolling in that was blowing around all the dust in the whole valley. Everything looked yucky and dirty and dark. Then little splatters of rain blew this way and that, and the dirt stuck to the water, making it all look even worse. It was just a dirty storm, but finally the heavy rain came and washed it off and cleared it out. Wednesday morning, I went for a walk and the sky was clear, the mountains looked beautiful with a light layer of snow, the sun was coming up bright, and I was reminded again that sometimes I need to just be patient and hunker down and wait for my bad mood to pass, just like the storm passed. When I have storms in life, it doesn't mean I'm bad or not doing things right (if I am trying to do obey God and do things right) ~ it's just another test of endurance and patience. I was grateful to have it pass and to feel like I could handle my life again.

So, that brings me to the Screwtape Letters. After a clear morning and a return of calmness, I was in the car doing the usual chauffering of kids and listened to letter #8 which was personal revelation to me...

For those who don’t know, Screwtape is a demon writing to an apprentice demon named Wormwood. Thus, all that is said is said from the perspective of the demon. When you hear about the Enemy, it means God. Now quoting letter 8 (underlining and bold is mine, parentheses are in original, my insights will be after the letter)

My dear Wormwood,
   So you 'have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away', have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?
   Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a 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 a good use of it.
   To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.
   And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
   But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I will give you some hints on how to exploit them, Your affectionate uncle SCREWTAPE

OK! So isn't that amazing!

Here we go:
Re-Epiphany #1 (since I've learned this before, but now again it's being hammered in) - "He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks". As I heard this, right here I was really paying attention, since I had just spent a few days in the troughs and was ready to hear and learn what God and the demons had been trying to do with me!... It's not that God had left me and was ignoring me, he's teaching me yet again how to walk. Some of God's special favorties, prophets like Abraham, Joseph of Egypt, Job, became all the more admirable and noble because of their trials. "...that is where the troughs come in." That is why the troughs exist. God needs them to teach us.

#2 - just like Wormwood must have been wondering, I have wondered and cried about why?!?! ~ why am I so week, why is it so hard for me to do the simplest things - to keep the house clean!?! To make and take the kids to their activities, to get anything done ~ Why don't I feel more of God's tangible/physical support ~ "why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment"?! Yes! I want God's joy in my heart always, but it's not always with me, rather there is a constant fight for joy. Why isn't it easier? I want to lean on him and his light, but he wants me to learn to walk. It feels so hard and impossible sometimes. But I want to learn and I need too, but it's hard study. I need to be filled with light. God won't just over-ride our will, that is useless to his eternal plan ~ "He cannot ravish. He can only woo." "He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them" - before we moved to Costa Rica, I had some of these small but great revelations and I know it was God guiding us, but I was weak and struggled through much of that experience. Still, remembering those distinct impressions and knowing they came from Him helped me muddle through. And now they still, as they did then, fill me "with emotional sweetness... But... He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws" ... "He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best."

So the beginning of this week I was in a real emotional trough, just feeling so over my head with life, and this letter helped me learn that the prayers I begged did not fall on empty ears, and the heavens might have been silent, but those begging prayers aren't annoying to Him, he's not shaking his head at my weakness. Those prayers please him best. Wow.

He wants us to learn to walk, "and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. " God is pleased with all my pathetic inablities? Yes, if I remain determined. "Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. "

I love that last sentence, cause everyone can relate and understand the troughs, we all know them. We also all know the peaks. When the peaks come, we realize the troughs were nothing, like when you read through old entries of a personal journal about all the useless cares that worried you back then and feel like they were such simple problems! When we get into the troughs again, though, we tend to forget all the insights about troughs that we gained during our peaks. There are times I am just so flustered and out of ideas and I know God could bless me to feel happy, just make me happy please!!! but he doesn't and I don't feel cheerful and things just don’t going well... but I still strive to obey and I still serve and still desire to do His will. The Christian who serves when it's hard is the Christian who can’t be defeated. Why? Because it’s not entirely dependent on emotions. It’s a commitment of the mind and will.

So, I've been abandoning my children and responsibilities for the past hour, and need to hurry and come up with dinner for these children, but I'm thankful to be able to get all these thoughts down that I've had this week. If you are in the peak, be thankful. If in the trough, (Which is where I too often find myself) remember that this too will pass and that God loves our stumbles as we learn to walk like Him.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

General Conference

I loved General Conference today, as always. Particularly Sister Reeves talk, where she said it's okay for your house to be messy and your kids to be in their pajamas all day (7:14)! Hooray!!! If we just make sure that we have daily scripture reading, family prayer, and family home evening, then we are doing great. So messy house, you're welcome to stay! We've got our priorities straight and that is good. I love teaching my children of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the Savior's life. I love testifying to them that OBEDIENCE to God's commandments and to TRUTH will bring them happiness. Striving to obey God and to do His will has brought me joy and has led me to all the good and wonderful things that I treasure in my life, especially them and my wonderful marriage to Corey.
I'm so grateful for our living prophet and apostles and leaders, what wonderful counsel they give. Thank you, Lord, for giving your words to your servants, the prophets. Amos 3:7


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