The life of St. Augustine is one of the most beautiful examples of God’s unfailing love and unconditional mercy. Augustine, right from a tender age was subject to the various ways of the world which influenced him and led him down the paths of sin and corruption. Only something that is good is capable of undergoing corruption, for if it were not good then there would be nothing in it to be corrupted. Being a creation of God, Augustine was therefore good, just as we are and hence, was subject to the corruption of this world.
As we look into the life of St. Augustine, we see that although he became a great man of faith, he began just like any of us. Not only was he bogged down with the weight of sin, but he experienced a great deal of pain and suffering in his life. He went through phases of severe depression and debilitating grief. In his book, ‘the Confessions’ he writes about his struggle with sin and especially with the sin of lust. This sin stems from the deep desire to love and be loved. He fell into this sin because as he describes, his soul was starving for inward food which he looked to others to satisfy. However, the food they provided was corruptible and only drew him deeper and deeper into sin.
He realized that it was not in games, music, banqueting, pleasures of the bed, couch, books or poetry that he could find any rest and throughout his life until his baptism, St. Augustine repeatedly came back to this pervasive restlessness, a feeling of not being quite right or at home.
On introspection into our own lives we realize that all our wants are within us while the things or people we look to, to satisfy these wants are outside us and cannot by any faculty of their own, enter our souls. For this reason we are always restless because we are created by God and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.
This restlessness is manifested in various ways. The sin of sloth longs for rest but what rest is there but in the Lord? Luxury parades as plenty and abundance but it is only the Lord who is the fullness and never failing abundance of pleasures that are incorruptible. Wastefulness presents a semblance of liberality but it is God who is the overflowing giver of good. Covetousness would possess many things but the Lord is the possessor of all things. Envy wrangles for first place but who can be before the Lord? Anger seeks revenge but who can avenge justly, but the Lord? Fear jumps with alarm at the unexpected and sudden threat to things beloved and is wary of their security but who can separate those you love, from you?
Augustine’s story begins with the goodness of God’s creation, takes a turn for the worse in his early life of restlessness, but by the grace of God he is wooed and finally won. It is so wonderful to hear his story, to see how personally God works in our lives. The Lord took his gifts and kept them and redeemed his previous skills with words and philosophy for His greater glory. He filled his amazing mind to overflow with the Word. The Lord truly redeemed and answered this prayer:
“My God, I give thanks to you, my source of sweet delight, and my glory and my confidence. I thank you for your gifts. Keep them for me, for in this way you will keep me. The talents you have given will increase and be perfected, and I will be with you since it was your gift to me that I exist”
St. Augustine’s conversion is a beautiful example of God’s power to call us gently to Him, to ignite the desire of our wills toward Him so that the whispers of sin in our lives do not easily entangle us. Despite a few errors and wrong emphasis, St. Augustine sought the Lord and sought to obey Him. He prayed,
“My entire hope is exclusively in your very great mercy. Grant what you command, and command what you will”.
Likewise we ought to pray that God will give us the ability to fulfil His will in every area of our life and the wisdom and integrity to apply His truth to the most basic assumptions and even to the peripheral activities of our lives.
The words of St. Augustine turn our thoughts and hopes to the Father, Son and Spirit who have loved us so much in creation, in redemption and in patient teaching, to walk in God’s way. Let us pray that the ears, eyes, nose, mouth and skin of our heart will be opened to God more and more, that we might know Him more closely and long for Him more dearly, that he might draw us to him so that we may find rest in Him.