Now you understand. You thought you understood pain, did you not? Thought you understood it because you live with that dull pain every moment of every day. But now you know that pain comes in degrees, that the ache in a bone is different to a sword in the heart, that pain can always, will always increase. You understand that dread and fear are entirely different to despair and devastation.
You thought I’d sympathise? Empathise? You thought I’d share your regret, your remorse? I cannot understand your pathetic attempts to deceive me, Blankweed. Because we both know that you and I are incapable of remorse. And let me remind you that I cannot empathise because I, unlike you, have never failed.
This is just the beginning, it seems to me. After this will come the slow slide to everlasting destruction where all pain comes together in endless fire. Were it not that I cannot abide the thought of a soul escaped, I would relish your decline. You thought that I would support you because of a ‘regret’ I mentioned about the failure of another junior tempter? Blankweed, you misunderstand me. Regret? I feel nothing but the rage of missed opportunity, and the taste of his despair is ever on my tongue, strong and fiery. When you fail, they will give you to me: but you will be no feast. You will be a mere flavour on my palate. Nevertheless, I will relish the taste of your devastation for eternity.
However, there is, I suppose, hope yet. There is no way for you to escape the scalding agony of what has happened. But you may yet escape the everlasting flames. Until she is dead, until that very moment of her last breath, we may yet prevail. Understand this too: we may prevail, but only you can fail. The responsibility for this soul is yours alone.
So, let us consider the situation. Your patient has made a commitment to the Enemy. I am astonished by the number of points at which you disregarded my instructions. You failed to prevent her from attending this group, despite my careful advice. You failed to distract her mind. You failed to trap her emotions in a cycle of social ineptitude and doubt. And so, when her eyes opened to that glimpse of light (and you reeled back, blinded) she was undefended, and entirely on Enemy territory, surrounded by his troops.
The point at which she (metaphorically) fell to her knees was the point at which you should have terrified her. I’ve seen the battle, which seemed lost, won even at that point of commitment. Unaccustomed as these creatures are to recognising the Enemy, they cannot distinguish between him and our disguises. But there is no point in going over this now.
But what now? Opportunities now abound. She floated home that night, feeling herself to be different, a new human being. But in many essential ways she is not. She has the same personality, the same inclination towards certain sins, the same job, the same home, and the weight of her life will encourage her to behave in the same ways she has always behaved. You see she does not, in all truth, understand what it means to give your life to the Enemy. She felt a disgusting shaft of joy. She felt that joy all the way home, and she woke up to it this morning. But it will not last. And this is where we take our chance because – you see – she thinks it will last.
She thinks THIS is that a life of faith will feel like!
She thinks that now everything will be different. That she will be a better wife, better mother, better friend, better worker. She thinks it will now be easy to be kind and patient and generous. She thinks she will rise above all troubles with a smile of angelic joy on her face, that people will look at her and long to have her rapture.
longing to be a creature of rapture.....
Of course at a fundamental level she has now changed – or, rather, been changed. And the Enemy will carry her for a little while – it will be easier for some time. But the Enemy believes – ridiculously – that these creatures need to make a continuous choice for him, that they need to take each day each step in his direction. And so he sets them on their own feet. And leaves them to walk – supported, yes, but not carried – on their own feet. And this is where many a new convert falls into our hands.
First, she will have to deal with disappointment: but she didn’t think it was going to be like this! She thought it would be easier. Oh how sad! The new convert doesn’t realise they were being carried; they thought they were behaving differently because they’d transformed into a kinder, more patient, more generous person. And so we step in and fan their resentment. “but I gave my life to you so why are you making it so hard for me? Why aren’t you keeping up your side of the bargain” is the line we feed them. There are so many possibilities in emotional terms here: resentment, anger, a sense of betrayal, a sense they’ve been made a fool of. It’s like playing in a sandpit for us at this point – too many toys to choose between!
Second, she will have to learn what it really means to transform her life to follow the Enemy. She will need to learn new ways of thinking, new ways of behaving. She will have to find people who will help her, learn ways of engaging with the Enemy, set up new routines, master entirely new strategies of self-examination, repentance, and trust. She has to learn how to be a different person in a world which expects her to behave in old ways. The pressures on the convert to revert to old behaviour are enormous, even without our help. And we’re committed to helping, aren’t we, Blankweed!
All is not lost. At least, I think not. Please let me know immediately which remedial courses you have enrolled for (DESP 106: Luring the new convert is a must). And I need more details of your patient’s current frame of mind AND some detail of how the people around her (her husband, family, and workmates) are responding to this new aspect of her life. I’d like to know, too, whether she’s talking about her experience or keeping it a secret – because we need different strategies for each of those scenarios.
I hope – but doubt – that you’ve learned your lesson.