Search

About two days ago, I emailed a good friend I haven't seen in a while, and in the letter I shared with him a moving portion from Augustine's Confessions, among the best books I've read thus far. (I've been using the John K. Ryan translation, which is just wonderful.)

You judge me, O Lord, for although no one "knows the things of man but the spirit of man which is in him," there is something further in man which not even the spirit of man which is in him knows. But you, Lord, who made him, knows all things that are in him. Although I despise myself before your sight, and account myself but dust and ashes, yet I know something of you which I do not know about myself. In truth, "we see now through a glass in a dark manner", and not yet "face to face." Therefore as long as I journey apart from you, I am more present to myself than to you. Yet I have known that you are in no wise subject to violation, whereas for myself, I do not know which temptations I can resist and which I cannot. Even so, there is hope, for you are "faithful, who will not suffer us" to "be tempted above that which" we "are able to bear," but you "make also with temptation issue that" we "may be able to bear it." Let me confess then, what I know about myself. Let me confess also what I do not know about myself, since that too which I know about myself I know because you enlighten me. As to that which I am ignorant concerning myself, I remain ignorant of it until my "darkness shall be made as the noonday in your sight."

Augustine's prayers are so heartfelt and personal because he knew the God to whom he prayed to. God knew him, too, not just as a creature but as an adopted son, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The experience is similar to reading the Psalms. His confessions give the reader a picture of the spiritual turmoils that trouble his heart—his lust, his pride, his other past and present sins.

In another portion, Augustine writes,
For in myself I have become a riddle, and that is my infirmity.
So he asks God to search him, knowing that his heart is deceitful above all else, and that only God can fully comprehend it (Jeremiah 17:9).

I often think that I know myself well enough, but I praise God for reminding me that there are still hidden corners in my heart that I haven't fully explored, that I still don't fully understand my capacity for doing other sins, that there may still be hidden motives lying somewhere that I haven't checked. My comfort is that, although on my own I'm left in the dark, God in His grace is able to search my heart  and reveal these things to me, so I can be forewarned and reminded.

I pray, like David, in Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, God, and know my heart
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. 

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