I’m so pleased that we, as a community, are reading Augustine together. He’s the single most influential thinker in Christian history. He’s been influential in my life as well. I have a passage from his Confessions that I’ve typed up, printed out, and taped in the front of my Bible.
Great are you, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is your power and infinite is your wisdom. Man desires to praise you, for he is part of your creation; he wears morality around him, carries the evidence of his sin, and the proof that you resist the proud. Still he desires to praise you, this small part of your creation. You have prompted him that he should delight to praise you, for you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
I look at it often, recite it even. It’s a passage of beauty, but more than that it reminds me of who I am and how I want to live in the world.
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
As I’ve reflected on the passage, I feel like Augustine is offering a prophetic indictment. So often, when I’ve had a long day, I want to disengage. I play games on my phone or binge on Netflix. But when I read Augustine’s quote I wonder if I can truly call that disengagement “rest.” “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you” seems to call me to something more, something deeper, something more quiet.
In the last several years, I’ve taken up silent prayer. I turn off my phone, I sit on my couch, and I am silent before God. I contribute nothing, I offer him nothing but my time and attention. I only “am” in his presence. It makes me wildly uncomfortable. But, interestingly, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable because I’m particularly concerned about maximizing my productivity. I actually feel, in myself, a recoil against the silence. I notice how much damage my high-sensory input-lifestyle has done to my soul. It’s crippled me, even, from the capacity to rest deeply.
I see you grasping for rest, Augustine seems to say, but rest only exists here, in reality, because the God from whom it comes himself only exists in reality. Read this way, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you” is a call to arms, a call to recognize my own restlessness, to step away from distraction, and to meet God in silence.
I challenge us, today, to indulge the idea. Let’s sit in silent prayer for two minutes, and see if you don’t also feel like you are stretching an atrophied muscle. Then, I suspect, we will be all the more ready to hear what Augustine has to teach us.