So open my eyes wide as I can
Blind as I am
Considering the fact that I have not posted on here since *checks* January, I would title this post a “now or never” one, since it has been forever since my last words on this blog, and if I never get back to blogging, I might fall out of the desire to continue. It can be exceedingly helpful to write on this blog sometimes.
Summer is verging near, and as a result I will have a bit more time to blog. Perhaps. This semester has been filled with changes, job, school, art, and writing. And learning several significant things from God, such as fully trusting in Him, and using that Faith to build a strong foundation for the future ahead. As I may have already mentioned, I am now homeschooling again.
The first book I read for this semester was Augustine’s Confessions, the auto-biographical chronicle of St. Augustine of Hippo’s struggles and eventual conversion to Christianity. When I read his words I felt as though he spoke across the centuries, his doubts, struggles, fears, and questions all ringing so truly in my mind that it nearly seemed as though he sat right before me, looking earnestly into my eyes and telling one-on-one his story. His story. I would challenge you, reader, Christian or non-Christian, to look up a translation of St. Augustine’s confessions, because they are essentially a description of a very human soul fighting against an all-loving, all-merciful God who only wished to save his Life by asking him to surrender it all. Augustine was truly brilliant–his writings reflect that. He knew it. He was a highly respected teacher and scholar in Carthage and in Rome. He rejected the Faith his mother, Monica, embraced. He pursued his own desires, and this ended up nearly breaking him. He involved himself with the Manicheans, a cult group in Rome, and suffered from their misleading doctrine, their subtly woven lies that mingled with technical Biblical truths, thus giving the facade of Righteousness, while leading their followers down a road of darkness.
One thing that stood out blatantly in this part of Augustine’s Confessions was the constant dissatisfaction underlying his involvement with this particular group. He felt strangely unfilled, left wanting of something more. Even a respected leader of the Manicheans was at a loss to explain away this emptiness–and everyone claimed that this masterful leader could quell Augustine’s questions and doubts. Disappointed, disillusioned, and lost, Augustine, became involved in astrology. The reading of the stars. Something so magically scientific that for a while its seeming sureness relieved him, until those unsettled feelings returned.
All of his struggles, his wandering, and his determination to thrust God away, struck me so hard. I have been dealing with this, quite considerably, so Augustine’s Confessions underlined all of the experiences I myself have been undergoing lately. No, I haven’t joined any cult, and I haven’t looked to the stars. But there is a strain of rebellion that pursues the path that leads away from Christ. But that deliberate, very human urge to destroy any relationship with the One True God is what can be the most crippling experience ever.
Recently I attended TeenPact, a Christian camp designed to give (mostly homeschooled) Christian teens a fuller picture of how the state government works. Every evening at chapel, we had these very intense, thought-provoking devotions wherein the presence of the Lord was strongly felt, a certain current running throughout the room, both inspiring and quite moving. I felt stirred the first two nights, but after another long, emotionally exhausting day of forcing myself to be outgoing, and struggling with self-consciousness about my shyness, I began to feel bitter against God, reasons lining up in my head to shrug the world off and sink into silence, shutting others off. I was weary after exerting myself socially, and I was on an emotional low. I was in this state where I wanted to reject others, namely God. This particular evening the pastor asked students at the end of his service to commit themselves to the Lord, whether for the first time or to re-prioritize Him in their lives if they had been wandering from a relationship. As I watched others stand up, begin to declare that they wanted to renew their relationship with the Lord, I deliberately detached myself, slumping into a determined “rebellion” against this dramatic, sobbing acceptance of a relationship with Christ. I silently judged these people, and told myself that I was more controlled and independent than they were, becoming convinced that I didn’t need to resort to this spiritual movement, which I described mentally and haughtily as “sentimental”. But these people had the best reason to cry on one another’s shoulders as peace and spiritual excitement overwhelmed them. I was just totally missing the point of it all.
I want you to understand this rebellion–it is the kind that wants to shake off the vulnerability, the deepest need to draw closer to God, because your mind tells you that you don’t need that relationship. Either you have made yourself understand that it is unnecessary and useless because you can’t feel God’s presence, or that you simply are too put out by Life itself and feel that God is to blame for this–he ought to be making it all better, and since he isn’t, then there is absolutely no cause to open your heart and receive him. I have been struggling with both of these issues in combination–a soul-draining, debilitating angst in which you momentarily revel for its seeming outward strength of humanistic independence, which in turn sinks you into a mire. In my case, whenever I push my Savior away, I end up falling under, and losing myself in a dark mental casement, crowded into tearful hours wherein fears and phobias can undo me.
This night at TeenPact chapel I was feeling so faraway and empty, and excluded from the spiritual emotion that everyone around me expressed through weeping, praying, and passionate uplifting of one another. Coldness and disillusionment washed over me.
The Saturday I returned from TeenPact I attended a church service and in that hour God specifically spoke to me about my state of mind and heart. I had chosen to pray to Him before the service began, and now found myself awash with shock as God’s voice reached me in that service. It was utterly amazing, how he managed to communicate such a personalized message at this period of emptiness and annoyance with life in general, and challenge me to draw closer to Him.
Reading about Augustine reminded me of my struggles–I could relate to his readiness to turn away from Jesus, and pursue his own path, and satisfy himself. He found that this only buried him deeper into a mound of fear, doubt, and confusion, unable to grapple with the conflicts that assailed him in daily life. He had no fortress or cornerstone; he was devoid of any source of comfort.
I suppose the main message of this post is to stress the importance of fervently seeking the One True God–Christ who gave His life for our sake, because His Truth is the most fulfilling thing to ever understand. We might prefer to wander in whatever way we choose, but it can never satisfy the way that He can. Augustine’s life is a beautiful picture of how a man tried to walk through life in the way he thought best, instead of pursuing Jesus Christ in the most amazing relationship a human can ever have. And when he chose to serve the Lord instead of himself, he became a spectacular testimony of the beauty of a life given over to God. Augustine left a legacy for the Church which has been remembered across the centuries, his Confessions, The City of God, and other works filled with powerful thoughts and ideas that continued to move people in the modern world.
When I seek you, my God, I seek a blessed life. I shall seek you, so that my soul may live.
~St. Augustine of Hippo
Nunc aut Numquam. So it’s now or never. God is waiting. His hands are outstretched to us. Can we let Him reach us?