Saturday, 25 March 2006

Delighting in God

This morning I read Augustine's Confessions - a loose & I think condensed translation in modern English (I'd love to recover my school Latin and read his original!) There is much to be reminded of and quoted from him - he is steeped in Scripture and a lover of God, exalting his grace and supremacy.

From the opening paragraph which acts as a summary of his biography he is in pursuit of Truth and Joy, dispising of his former sin of looking anywhere but God, and praising God for revealing himself to him graciously:
How great you are, Lord, and how greatly to be praised! How matchless is your power and how infinite your understanding. Man may be but a speck in your wide creation, but he wants to praise you. He may carry around with him his mortality and his sin as mute testimony to the truth that "God resists the proud," but even so he wants to praise you. You have thrilled us by causing us to delight in your praise. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
As C.S.Lewis chased joy, and described our tragedy in part as settling for less when God offers more, Augustine describes his life before turning to God:
I was in love with a lower form of beauty. [And elsewhere] was my sin: I sought for pleasure, honour, and truth, not in God but in his creatures, including myself and others, and so fell into sorrow, confusion, and error.
His writing reminds me of Lewis' illustration in 'Meditations in a toolshed', of looking along a sunbeam to the source, rather than looking at the dust illuminated by it, when he says, "I had my back to the light and my face towards the things it illuminated; but my face, which could see what was in the light, remained in the darkness."

How then as lovers of God, should we use these lower forms of beauty?
...the man who insists on loving something besides you does not really love you as he should, unless he loves it because of you.
If physical objects appeal to you, [my soul,] praise God for them, but let your love revert to the one who made them, so that in pleasing yourself you don't displease him.
What then is his prayer for those "seeing what is in the light, [but] remaining in darkness?"
Look at us, Lord. Have mercy on us, and unshackle those of us who call on you. Do more than that! Unbind those who never stopped to ask you for a thing, just so they might learn to call on you, and so find themselves set free at last.
The implicit challenge to the reader of his Confessions:
What difference does it make to me whether men hear my confession or not - as if they could cure all my ailments! Men are an inquisitive lot, curious to find out about other people's lives, lazy when it comes to doing anything about their own. Why do they want to hear from me what I'm like, when they won't listen to you, Lord, when you tell them what they're like?
His confidence and hope:
Your only Son, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, has redeemed me with his blood. ... As a beggar, I yearn to be filled by him in the midst of those who eat and are satisfied. For as the Psalmist promised, those who seek the Lord shall praise him.
Further reading:
The Confessions of Augustine
Desiring God, Piper
When I don't desire God, Piper

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