Augustine’s confession and the reality of Monday
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 No! I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak. 12 Why do you keep me under guard? Do you think I am a sea monster? 13 I lie down and try to rest; I look for relief from my pain. 14 But you—you terrify me with dreams; you send me visions and nightmares 15 until I would rather be strangled than live in this miserable body. 16 I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense. 17 Why are people so important to you? Why pay attention to what they do? 18 You inspect them every morning and test them every minute. 19 Won’t you look away long enough for me to swallow my spit? 20 Are you harmed by my sin, you jailer? Why use me for your target practice? Am I so great a burden to you? 21 Can’t you ever forgive my sin? Can’t you pardon the wrong I do? Soon I will be in my grave, and I’ll be gone when you look for me. Job 7:11-21 (TEV)
For I bore about a shattered and bleeding soul, impatient of being borne by me, yet where to repose it, I found not. Not in calm groves, not in games and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in curious banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the couch; nor (finally) in books or poesy, found it repose. All things looked ghastly, yea, the very light; whatsoever was not what he was, was revolting and hateful, except groaning and tears. For in those alone found I a little refreshment. But when my soul was withdrawn from them a huge load of misery weighed me down. To Thee, O Lord, it ought to have been raised, for Thee to lighten; I knew it; but neither could nor would; the more, since, when I thought of Thee, Thou wert not to me any solid or substantial thing. For Thou wert not Thyself, but a mere phantom, and my error was my God. (1)
Yesterday’s sermon was on the slaughtering of the innocents, and the despair of Israel as the children were led away into captivity. An odd way to begin the year, I thought. I included statistics that were overwhelming, the number of martyrs, both those who died without denying Jesus, and the number of lives cut short before their
It’s enough to make you stagger, to bluntly reveal our brokenness, to tear our hearts apart by simply being honest. Even those who helplessly look on are devastated and struggle to find God, and even more, we often push away the comfort He would give us.
Often times, we are too polite, to bound by a sense of hospitality, to address these things. We want to shove the pain into some dark corner or our soul We are afraid to be honest with God, to openly cry about the pain, to admit the anger, to let ourselves be purged of our bitterness.
Augustine tried to find such solace, he couldn’t escape the pain. Neither could Job. But it is as they confess this, as they struggle with the god they cannot see, that they cannot fathom, that hope begins.
I understand them, perhaps all too well. When I am at such points, overwhelmed, I want to run and hide. To find solace in a place like Lake Ossipee, NH. To dive into the fictional works I love, of earlier times in history, or the worlds of Tolkien or Feist. I long to be someplace other. To replace prayer with the study of theology, to replace the sacred times, the sacramental life with busyness serving others. Ministry can be a great place to hide in the illusion of self-preservation known as denial.
David knows this grief, as did Solomon. the emptiness, the lack of the peace we pursue. You can’t read the Psalms without noting it, or Ecclesiastes without finding the bitter pain of a life that seemed only to be defined by vanity.
It is in facing that vanity, that lack of peace, that emptiness that we can realize our need for God. That we can understand what faith is, that we can understand how intimate the relationship is, where God teaches us to desire and pray to see His Kingdom come and will be done.
Stop running, cry out with your soul until you can be still. For then you will know that He is God, know He is here, and that He is your refuge. For being still is not possible until we deal with the pain that would have us fight or flee. It is then, broken, wounded, weeping, that we come to the cross, and indying to ourselves, we find Him.
There, at the cross, worn out and weary beyond measure, you will be still; ou will find what Agustine and Job, David and Solomon all found, and what transformed them. A God who comes to us… and brings healing and peace.
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.