“And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”
― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
If you read the quote above the handcuff photo, I have one thing to say and that is ... "RIGHT?"
It was in a Milan garden that Augustine finally achieved the act of will to Christian conversion, which he compared to a lazy man in bed finally deciding it is time to get up and face the day.
I am reading some of Confessions this morning. This book is highly under-rated in the religious circles to which I am accustomed. Augustine (354), a North African born farmer who mastered classical Latin literature and, while following the journey of secularism, wrote about theology, philosophy, and sex. Augustine, baptized by St. Ambrose (387), became the bishop of Hippo for his remaining years and died during the Vandal siege of his city in 430.
I was a mite intimidated by St. Augustine and presumed, upon first reading years ago, that this book was going to be more of a challenge than a pleasure. I was wrong on both accounts. It was not a challenge; it was very easy to read and well-crafted. His thoughts were clear and I enjoyed his style. It was a simple translation. But, it was not necessarily a pleasure, either, for I found myself weeping inwardly for the state his soul was in at the time. But the thing is ...
I wept because I “got it”, you know?
In short, soul touched soul. Augustine's Confessions may not have challenged my intellect, but instead demanded my soul to throw down its gage and acknowledge my own chronicles. Augustine says that neglecting to confess this thing that has a person in such a grip is a worse than the thing itself because it encourages personal dishonesty.
I remember times when I kept something from my parents and was “eaten alive” by guilt. Why? Not just because I was afraid of the consequences (which always played a part) and not just because I would let them down (which also played a part), but because of the simple fact that I loved them. I felt separated and almost not a part of them when I kept something from them.
So too it is with God. It is not that (as a somewhat ridiculous example) chewing gum is wrong, but it has taken control of my thoughts and I've placed it somewhat above God. Has it become a hindrance to my love for Him? So one one might “love” gum, no biggie ... but enjoying the act or the sensation, that it begins to control?
All right, all right. Gum is way too simple; I purposefully went for something benign. How about sex? Lying? Electronics? Food? Any addiction, which is, after all, only medicating a more serious problem anyway, can take a person far from authentic relationships (including the one we have with our Father) and left cold – without a coat, too.
But such is the nature of transgression – I want something I don’t have. Like ... I got pneumonia because I ran two blocks without a jacket for that snowball.
Sometimes I don’t feel guilty for my shortcomings. I know that Jesus died for that guilt as well as the sin itself. So yeah, no guilt trips here. But sometimes, I just don’t care enough. Sometimes I don’t care if I let God down. (Yeah, you’ve been there.) By my own choices, I’m shivering without that coat. I deliberately choose to die. It stinks. Things which are liable to be corruption are often really, really good! Bummer, right? We are afraid of being rid of all our burdens as we ought to be at the prospect of carrying them. Ah, but there is hope! Our God, the Good, in need of no other good, is ever at rest since He IS His rest! He also has a closet full of coats and has been waiting for us to run to His cozy house for warmth.
"Yes indeed, that is how it is received, how it is found, how the door is opened.”
Augustine was completely overwhelmed and baffled by God. What a good thing to be.
“What man can enable the human mind to understand this? Which angel can interpret it to an angel? What angel can help a human being to grasp it? Only you can be asked, only you can be begged, only on your door can we knock." (Matthew 7:7-8)