Whose Time?

I’ve recently been rereading several of C. S. Lewis’s books, after first reading them during my college days. I have especially enjoyed rereading The Screwtape Letters. If you’re not familiar with this classic, it is a witty and penetrating look at spiritual warfare from a demon’s point of view.

ClockUncle Screwtape, a seasoned older devil, offers written advice to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon who must learn the tricks necessary to secure the damnation of his “patient,” an ordinary young man. The entire book is written from Screwtape’s point of view.  He sagely points out the foibles and weaknesses of fallen man, so that Wormwood can take full advantage of them while tempting his patient.

Read Screwtape’s words to Wormwood in the following quote and see if you, as a mother, can’t relate to its truth:

The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him… [This] anger[s] him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.

Screwtape goes on to tell Wormwood that he must never allow his patient to doubt that his time is his “personal birthright.”

You have here a delicate task. The assumption which you want him to go on making is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we [the demons] cannot find a shred of argument in its defense. The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.

In case, like me, you don’t know what “chattels” are, the word means “personal property.”  Do you or I own the sun or the moon? Can any of us list them as personal property when submitting a record of our belongings to our home insurance company? No, and neither can we claim even a single minute of time as our own.

If we can keep this in mind, if we will truly take hold of this truth, we will come to terms with the “interruptions” of motherhood. When we’re tempted to resent the “demands” on “our” time, when our plans are sidetracked by the needs of others, when we’re almost asleep and the baby wakes up again, we can remind ourselves — if God has brought it to pass, then it is part of His plan. And if it is part of His plan, then it is how we, His servants, should joyfully invest His time.

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