Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do you have a prodigal in your family? Here is the story of Augustine of Hippo. Part 2

Born- November 13, 354 A.D.
Died - August 28, 430A.D.
Notable work(s) The City of God.

Part 2

Then one day, as I was reading the epistles of Paul, a great storm of agitation began to billow within my soul. My heart and mind and even my face became wild, as this inner storm built. There was a garden attached to our house, and I rushed out there so that no one would see me in such a wild state. And there I was, going mad on my way to sanity—dying on my way to life! My mind grew frantic: I boiled with anger at myself for not giving myself over to your law that brings Life.  All my bones cried out that if I surrendered fully to you; I would find myself free and singing your praises to the skies.  I knew that it took but one step—a distance not as far as I had run from my own house to this bench where I had collapsed in my grief.  To go over to your side, to arrive fully on your side, required nothing other than the will to go—but to will strongly and totally, not to turn and twist a half-wounded will so that one part of me would keep rising up and struggling, while the other part kept me bound to earth. 

This inability to decide—for God or for my Self--was torturing me. I pulled at my hair, beat my forehead, locked my fingers together, and gripped my knees with both hands. My whole body felt the agony of my desire to go over to you, but I could not will my soul to rise and cross over to God. I knew that what held me was such a small thing, and yet I turned and twisted as one held on to a chain, as if my own agonizing might finally break it somehow.  Inwardly, I cried, “Let it be done now. Now!”
And you, O Lord, were you standing in the secret places of my soul all along! With your severe mercy, you redoubled the lashes of fear and shame, so that I would not give up again, which would mean that chain which bound me from you would bind me more strongly than ever before. I kept imagining the voices of mistresses, as they plucked at my garment of flesh, whispering, “Can you really send us away? How can you live without us?” I ran further from the house, into the garden, and flung myself down on the ground under a fig tree. Tears streamed down and flooded my eyes. I cried out, “How long will I keep saying, ‘soon’ and ‘tomorrow’? Why can’t I put an end to my uncleanness this very minute?”

  At that very moment I heard from a neighboring house a child’s voice—whether a boy or girl I can’t tell—singing over and over: “Take and read, take and read.” It was like the song in a child’s game, but I’d never heard it before.  These words came into my heart with the force of a divine command:            ”Take and read…”I forced myself to stop crying and got up off the ground. I went back into the garden to the place where I had left the Scriptures, which I had carried outside with me –for I believed I had heard nothing less than a divine command to open the book and read the first passage I found.  

I snatched the book, opened it  and read the first passage my eye fell upon: “Let us behave decently…not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immortality and debauchery…Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires f the sinful nature’ (Romans 13:13,14). 

I did not need to read further. There was no need to. For as soon as I reached the end of the sentence, it was as though my heart was filled with light and with confidence. All the shadows of my doubt were swept away.”
Footnote 1 Leith Anderson, Praying to the God You Can Trust, pp. 27-29 and also HIS footnote is Eric Zorn, “Let us Pray,” Notre Dame Magazine (Autumn 1995), pp.44, 45.

If you wish to read part 1, you can go to: