Aaaaaannnnd that brings me to Chapter 2 of The Screwtape Letters. . . . (If you missed Chapter 1, I addressed it here.).
. . . "My dear Wormwood, I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escaped the usual penalties; . . . In the meantime, we must make the best of the situation." . . . .
. . . . " One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her, spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. . . . All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face, bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him, he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like "the body of Christ" and the actual faces in the next pew.". . .
. . . "I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no rational ground for disappointment. Of course, if they do--if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge player, or the man with squeaky boots is a miser and an extortioner--then your task is so much the easier. All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question 'If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?' You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won't come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk.. . . . and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these 'smug', commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can."
My modern day interpretation?
2. Sometimes the enemy uses my bad attitude and negative body language to further his cause.
About a year ago, I was driving to church with my kids. In Amarillo, if you are out and about on a Sunday morning, there is a very real probability that you are headed to a church. My son decided he was going to start waving wildly (with a large smile on his face) at every car that we passed. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, "Mom, these people are going to church. They need to tell their face. They all look like they need a hug. If I can make someone smile, I'm gonna try." Wow! Out of the mouth of babes. . . Now THAT is conviction!
I know, sometimes life is hard. Sometimes we are going through tough stuff. I get it. However, one thing I have learned is: having a sour attitude NEVER fixes the problem. Although, if I'm being honest, sarcasm helps me a lot. . . It generally ends with a smile, though. So, I consider that a win!
3. It's important to share with my fellow Christians my failures.
I feel, very often, like the enemy uses the rationale of "I need to have it all together in order to follow Christ". Nothing could be further from the truth. Romans 3:23 addresses this pretty simply: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The biggest reason to be a part of a larger group of believers is to, indeed, share life--the good, the bad, and the ugly. . . (insert whistle here. . . )
"Go ahead. . . Make. My. Day. . . "
But. . . you might consider doing it with a smile. . . :)
And now, a few corny quotes to brighten your day
“You haven’t lost your smile at all, it’s right under your nose. You just forgot it was there.”
“Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.” » Chinese Proverb
“If you see a friend without a smile; give him one of yours.”
"Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing" Mother Teresa