Understanding Undulation

grayscale photography of raindrops

The days are what they are. Some are good, some are bad, most are remarkably forgettable. All of them are flying by. Understanding this can help us form realistic expectations, and keep us from giving in when we feel stuck in a rut. But if we, whose lives span precious few decades, grasp this reality, the devils seeking to discourage and undo us likely have it down to an art. Just check out what C.S. Lewis’s senior demon Screwtape had to say about it:

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, forto 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. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

Screwtape instructs his apprentice—Wormwood—to exploit the low moments in the life of his human assignment. Make him feel as though those low moments are the normal and real bit of life, Screwtape tells him. The high times, particularly as it relates to ones relationship with God, should be seen as a mere phase, something of the past. Screwtape wants the human to see his religious fervor like most see the life stage of adolescence, something that must be grown out of. What’s normal is a sense of God’s absence.

Let me ask you, how’s your week going so far? Are you on a peak, in a valley, or trudging your way through the monotonous middle? Know that the ebb and flow of life is normal. You’re human. The secret of life, as James Taylor sings, is learning to enjoy the passage of time. There’s more to life than just that of course, but understanding what Lewis calls “undulation” is important. Enjoy the good, endure the bad, and in it all, keep your eyes on Jesus. Your feelings will come and go. He won’t.