Broken-down Poetry: The Law of Undulation


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Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Law of Undulation

I have this pretty pink frame above my desk in my room. Inside of it, in big pink lettering, a verse from the Message Bible reads:

"Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets and end up on a deathbed of regrets." [I Corinthians 7:10]

Usually after I have a Bench Moment [when I meet with God and He reveals something to me] I have a spiritual high and am on a so-called "mountain." Life is good. But not so this time.

I guess this period of my life is marked with Change, so that must mean that because of change, there's going to be what they call a valley. Welcome Mr. Valley.
Things will get better this I promise you

I know you won't feel this way forever

Things will get better this I promise you

And I know loneliness won't last forever

And so I'm taken back to this concept illustrated by CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. "The law of Undulation," Uncle Screwtape calls it. It's this picture of troughs and peaks, ups and downs, valleys and mountains. In other words, sometimes bad times happen and you just feel dry. And I feel dry. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm going to put a big portion of that letter in this blog because I have no way to describe my feelings BUT through this. Through the conversation of two demons I can learn a thing or two about myself, ironic, huh?

But I wanted to tell you why I tagged you all in this blog, because as you can see, I rarely tag people in notes. And when I do it's because I know it's interesting or funny. But this one is from my heart. And though the majority of it is written by people NOT me, it is how I feel. Take what you can.
My dear Wormwood,

So you 'have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away', have you? I always though 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.... As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time... 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 lieveliness 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 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 amy surprise you to learn that in His efforsts 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 that anyone else.... 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 beause He had 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 himsef: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

And what is where troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensivly 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 override a human will... 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 communication of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over tempation. 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 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 aways 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 still 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.

Your affectionate uncle


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