I know far too many people who are afraid to talk about the devil and more specifically, the idea of evil being present in the world. However, I think the more we know about something the more we will be able to combat it. In this letter, Screwtape is talking about how even the smallest sins, the shortest pulls away from God, can lead us closer to the devil. I do not think most people view their sins this way. "I just skipped church this one time, it's not a big deal." "I got drunk last weekend, but this weekend I won't." It seems that we tend to think our relationship with God is just as good as it was last week, month, year, even though we've been slowing falling away. This quote sums it up well:
"As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago. And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn't been doing very well lately."
It is easy to go to a Christian college, because if we drink or have sex or whatever, we are still surrounded by Christians and still go to chapel everyday. We think that we've just made some new friends or started participating in new activities, and we are still just as close to God as we've always been. However, this letter also says how our temptations will soon become our desires. We may start going to parties and not drink, but then we'll have a drink or two and feel guilty, but as time goes on we'll end up wanting to drink and wanting to do it more and more.
"It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. ....Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
This ending really struck me, because I know that I don't do "big" sins, but I do many small ones. Every time I choose to sleep in instead of going to church, go to Johny's instead of chapel, or sit on facebook instead of praying, I am gradually edging away from the Light and into the Nothing. What can be terrifying to think about is the fact that the devil knows this. He knows my weaknesses and when I am vulnerable. It is uncomfortable to think that someone other than God knows me in and out. However, it can also be comforting to know that God knows me and He knows when to strenghten me when I am weak. With Him, I can combat the temptations that lead me to the devil, and God always brings me out of the darkness.
This letter made me think of all the choices I make, and how even the smallest ones could have great impact on my life. Listening to offensive music, watching inappropriate televion shows, or looking at magazines that promote a false truth, can all change our relationship with God. There is always going to be something there to tempt us or distract us, so it is up to us to know when we are being led astray. Small sins can lead to big sins, and soon we may be too far in to get out of the mess we made. Fortunetly, God never leaves our side, and He is always there to listen to our prayers and forgive us. I pray for a humble heart, one that not only recognizes when I make a mistake but is also eager to tell God about it and let it go. Only with Him can I resist the devil.