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Screwtape Letters Wk 5 of 7

July 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Screwtape Letters Week 5 of 7

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Time's a Tickin'!

Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. 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 the-good-portion-picturethat 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. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tȇte-à-tȇte with the friend), that throws him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own.’ Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright. – The Screwtape Letters (p. 111-112) (Chapter 21, Paragraph 2-3)

We prioritize it. We schedule it. We measure it. We race it. And, let’s be honest – sometimes we do ‘kill’ it. Regardless, time is limited, and for the most part, we tend to do everything we can to stretch it as far as possible before we run out. In the far recesses of our minds, we all hold fast to Benjamin Franklin’s notion that “Lost time is never found again.”

Because time is finite, time management is serious business. Over the years I’ve collected a mountain of books on the subject.  And if there’s one thing I seem to love more than living by a schedule, it’s creating a schedule. In fact, if I spent half as much time living my life as I spend planning it, I’m sure I’d be amazed at what I could accomplish. I’ve created and recreated schedules running from morning till night, developed a rule of life for our family, and found efficiency in everything from a master housecleaning chart to a binder full of weekly shopping lists for complete dinner menus. I am a time-saving guru!

Until I get interrupted.

If some unexpected event throws me off-track, the game is over. At that point, one of two things is bound to happen. Either, like Superman’s kryptonite, those interruptions render me weak, unmotivated and unproductive (as in, “I didn’t get X,Y or Z done when I planned, so why worry about it now?”), OR, I get right back on track; but in that case I’m often frustrated and short-tempered and no amount of “catching up” inspires an attitude change.

So why can’t I just go with the flow when life throws a fast one?

Light bulb. Even if I’ve planned my entire day in a way that I believe will best glorify God, the fact is that I’ve planned my day.  But God may have other plans.

I must ask myself – is my true allegiance to God, or to the “masterpiece” I call my Schedule?

I'm reminded of my two-year-old daughter when she asked if she could “help” wash the table recently. Silly me. I actually believed her motivation was to help Mommy. Since I had just washed the table, I offered her another opportunity.  First, I encouraged her enthusiastically for wanting to help.  Then I showed her a small pile of toys and asked if she wanted to put them in the toy box. Of course, she was deeply offended. She had wanted to help alright. But she wanted to do it HER way, or she didn’t want to help at all. Bottom line, she really wanted to play with a wet rag on the table.

What's my bottom line?

The fact is,  when God asks that I glorify Him by some other means than I have planned, in my heart, I stomp off like a little child because I would rather do it MY way.

But this is absolutely the wrong approach.  As Screwtape makes so clear, every moment is a pure gift.  A gift for which we should be so very thankful, no matter what the moment holds. Just because it’s not the moment I planned, doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of my gratitude and devoted attention.

There is a wonderful scene in the movie, The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio, where the main character demonstrates this point beautifully:   Enjoy This Moment to the Fullest

Amidst all my scheduling, I must remember that my time on earth is but a journey to my true home. I may reach home twenty years from now, or I may reach it today. What truly matters is not whether I used all my time productively throughout my journey, but how much love and gratitude I shared in each moment along the way.

Reading Assignment:  Chapter 27-31

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.  Are you guilty of believing your time is your own?  If so, what helps you to redirect your focus?

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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