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Screwtape Letters Wk 2 of 7

June 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Screwtape Letters Week 2 of 7

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Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman.  The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor.  It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories of the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning good portion picture1to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.  – The Screwtape Letters, p. 7 (Chapter 2, paragraph 3)

Letter to my Newly Married Little Sister:


You did it! The wedding dress, the flowers, the limo, all the bridesmaids with matching purple toenail polish, the decorations, the dinner, the D.J., the dancing, the tossing of the bouquet, and last but not least, the magnificent week-long honeymoon in Mexico.

Today, you embark on the amazing journey that is to be your life together.

I’m so happy for you. As someone who has been married for nearly nineteen years, I can assure you that being married is a joy.  Better than anyone I'll ever meet, my husband knows me.  Together we’ve shared our hopes, dreams, successes, failures, joys and disappointments, as well as periods of suffering and desolation.

Between us we’ve had high times and – believe it or not – we’ve had low times. But knowing that we're in this for the long haul has helped us to resolve our difficulties more quickly and to enjoy those exciting moments with the absolute assurance that we would share these memories with great joy even years from now.

While married life has been an amazing gift, I must share with you that I did not always expect it to be.  You know where I'm coming from.  You, too, have always worn rose colored glasses, hopeful but always secretly wondering when and if the roses will fade. As children of not one divorce, but several, we were led to believe that love, although great and exciting  – doesn’t always last. How we hoped to be among the “lucky ones!”

Dale and I had a conversation when we were first engaged that turned out to be one of the most profound and life-changing I’ve ever had. It started out with a casual off-the-cuff comment by Yours Truly. I was leaning against the wall in my apartment when I said, “If we’re this unaffectionate when we’re engaged, imagine how pathetic our relationship will be in 20 years. It’s only going to get worse from here, you know.” I had been just a little frustrated by how we lacked the “goo-goo” eyes and “syrupy,” kissy-face romance I’d seen in the movies. (By the way – I’ve noticed the two of you share the “Hollywood-style” affection. Note Dale’s response anyway – it still applies.)

Dale looked me in the eyes and very seriously said, “You’re wrong. Our relationship will only get better with time. My parents have been married almost 40 years. And I guarantee you they are more in love now than they were when they first got married.” When he saw the doubt in my eyes, he went on to explain himself. He told me how his parents had raised nine children together, shared their grief through various family deaths, endured the tragedy of a stillborn, the joyous marriages of several children, followed by grandchildren and so on. He asked how they could possibly have loved each other more before they had shared forty years of intimate experience together.

I'm sure you’re as surprised as I was by his comments (In my skewed view of love, I believed relationships started at the top and either continued on a flat continuum or headed for a downhill slide – never did I think the “love graph” would show an upward trend!).  Yet here we are. We’re almost to that twenty-year mark. And I can tell you that he was absolutely right. I love him like I could never have imagined 20 years ago. We’ve truly grown to be two parts of a greater whole.

But I don’t want to sugar-coat things and lead you to believe that love is easy. Despite the fact that we’re more in love than ever, the truth is that marriage is tough. It’s not all romance and adulation. If you’re a neat freak, I’ve no doubt it will get under your skin when Bobby leaves his dirty clothes on the chair in your room. And while he may like to be 15 minutes early for everything, he might find that with you, he’s always sure to be 15 minutes late.

When the going gets tough – don’t quit!!

Several years ago, I worked for a nonprofit organization, wherein I planned a PR campaign on marriage. In my research, I found a very interesting fact. Researchers interviewed couples with marital problems, and then kept track of those who “stuck it out,” as well as those who “threw in the towel.” Overwhelmingly, when interviewed again five years later, those who stuck it out claimed to be significantly more happy in their marriages than they had been when they had originally acknowledged their problems. This remained true whether those couples sought counseling or not. Generally, it was concluded that marriage has its ebbs and flows – ups and downs. Those who struggle through the difficult times together, find their marriages are stronger and happier than they could have imagined.

Why is this? Researchers hypothesized that, like everything else in life, struggles tend to strengthen marital relationships. Sharing the good times and working through the bad help a couple to develop a history that can only be shared and understood by them. It is private. It is special. And it is profound.

Ask yourself – is there anything worth doing that is actually easy? You may have some rough spots now and then – perhaps even for long bouts of now and long bouts of then. It may take a while to work through the pain. But I can assure you, that as you stood before God and all the clouds of witnesses, inviting the Holy Spirit to be a part of your marriage, He will honor that request by using every crack in the road to help you grow in sanctity. He will prune away at each of you, little by little, helping you to grow in the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Here are a few final thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Although marriage can and should make people happy, it cannot make them perfectly happy. Perfect happiness cannot be found here on earth. It can be found only in Heaven. So if one insists on expecting perfect happiness from marriage, one is bound to be disappointed.
  • Second, and equally important, although marriage can make people happy, it cannot make them effortlessly happy. Happiness is not found easily; it takes an effort. Easy happiness does not last. This means there is no such thing as a happy marriage without an effort.
  • From the general principle, “marriage should make people happy,” one should not too quickly or too easily draw the particular conclusion, “Marriage should make me happy.” If made in strict logic, the conclusion follows. But if made – as it so often is – in a spirit of impatience, self-pity, bitterness, or indignation, it almost certainly proceeds less from logic than from self-centeredness. And marriage, if approached self-centeredly, is just not going to work – that is, it is not going to make anyone happy. – Covenanted Happiness, p. 69


 Reading Assignment:  Chapter 8-14

 Note:  While you’re reading along (and even if you can’t), make sure you check out this magnificent Radio Production of The Screwtape Letters by our own Paul McCusker. Excellent Production!

Discussion Questions:  1.  Any additional advice for the new couple?  2.  Please comment on anything from this past week!

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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