I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan. I am also a huge fan of allegorical writing, so Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters speaks to me often, in many different ways. For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Screwtape Letters, it is a small book written during the European War (the first years of World War II), comprised of letters from Screwtape (one of the Devil’s henchman on earth) to his nephew, Wormwood, who is a “Young Devil in training.” Lewis uses these letters to shed light on the ways in which the Devil (or the Enemy or Evil, if you like) capitalizes on human frailty to lure mankind away from God. I heartily recommend this small book to all!
In my Lenten quest to grow in gratitude, I find on a daily basis that I take God’s gifts and use them to “medicate.” By Screwtape’s own admission, God is the Creator of all pure pleasure (even “a bowl” of freshly popped corn, drizzled with butter – “a bowl” being the operative phrase here!) Screwtape refers to the abuse of God’s gifts of pleasure as an “anodyne” (something used like a drug that reduces pain or as a “medicator,” which is a more modern term). It is my abuse of God’s gifts, when used as medicators, which keeps me from a state of gratitude and in relationship with God. Take food, for example (since my “Lenten project” is to eat on a thrifty food budget). If I am eating a reasonably sized portion of whatever it is I have prepared for dinner, then I am feeding my body and spending a reasonable sum of money to do so, and I can be grateful that God has provided me with a job that pays me enough money to purchase and prepare an enjoyable meal. On the other hand, if I am “medicating” with food because I am “depressed” or “lonely” or “broke” or whatever it is that “ails” me on any given day, it really doesn’t matter what it is that I am eating, nor does it matter how much I spend to acquire it: I am just “shoveling it in” as fast as I can. Do I then feel grateful or experience gratitude for what God has provided? Not at all. Rather, I am filled with self-loathing, angry at myself that I have spent money I do not have and for having eaten WAY more than I need and having gained extra weight, on top of everything else! So now, I am not only not grateful for the food God has provided, but I am bitter because I do not have enough money (having spent it on food I did not need), and I look terrible in my clothes, which are too tight!!!
The gift of pleasure in enjoying a tasty meal or a bowl of popcorn and gratitude for that gift has been totally lost!! As Screwtape instructs his nephew, Wormwood: “An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula” (for drawing Humans away from God). Whether I am eating too much or drinking too much or spending too much money or craving more of this or desiring more of that, if I am not grateful for what I already have, then I miss the opportunity to experience pleasure in and express my gratitude for the gifts that God has given me.
So today (on a little lighter note), I am grateful that the gumbo I made for Fat Tuesday is almost gone (finally!!) As pleasurable as this gift has been (in $.95 per serving increments over the last week), I am looking forward to being grateful for something new on the menu!!