Monday, March 24, 2014

The Law of Undulation

I hear a lot of complaints about the phrase "this too shall pass,"
but I love it.
I guess it may be lacking in empathy,
but I say it to myself all the time in moments of discouragement.
It's really helpful to know that whatever difficulty we are experiencing is temporary--
especially when we maintain an eternal perspective.

It reminds me of the "law of Undulation."
C.S. Lewis wrote about this principle so beautifully in The Screwtape Letters.

To set some background, the devil Screwtape is giving some advice to his devil nephew Wormwood
on how to overcome a human and successfully bring him to hell.

Screwtape says:
"Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?...This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. 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."

I think about this principle often in raising our children.
I have realized over the past 4 1/2 years
that their behavior follows the law of Undulation as well.
They tend to go through really difficult phases and really great phases
of a few months at a time.
And for me, it is remarkably helpful to recognize during the difficult phases that "this too shall pass"--that they will improve with time.

(If you couldn't tell, we're feeling like we're in a bit of a parenting trough right now in many ways.)

Screwtape continues with some very profound insights that have changed my life:
"He (God) will set them (humans) off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. 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 during 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...He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away 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."

1 comment:

  1. That phrase has always been special to me. My father-in-law said it to me at a time when he was not my father-in-law and I had recently broken off my engagement with someone else. Since I ended up marrying his son it was great advice, but I haven't forgotten the impact it had upon me at the time.

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