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Restless Like Augustine: A Journal Reflection

Oh my God, teach me to love you. I have loved you so much this week, and now like brilliant ice on heat, my love has turned to water. The substance is there as always. You know I love you, God. But the strength of it, the reckless fervor has stilled. Part of me wishes it didn’t always go that way, but the rest of me accepts it. God, I’m just a little creature, fragmented in many parts. Restless like Augustine. Grant me rest in you—wholeness. Pour me down into your fullness, and let my fullness love you so that all parts love you all the time without will or desire.

This is what I want, but I don’t know how to get there. I speak so passionately, but I am absolutely powerless in the face of my desire for the things that stimulate my lazy appetite: tasty foods, cheap entertainment, etc. They are such small things, so worthless and inconsequential compared to the real love I have for you. And yet they are able to scoff at my true faithfulness. How can things that are not real—things I don’t care about—have such power over the things I do care about? God, I would die for you. But when faced with the choice between doing the disciplined thing—the right thing that fits the whole of what I’ve dedicated my life to—when faced with the choice between that thing and the option to go buy an ice cream, I almost always choose the ice cream. Why, when I would give you my very blood, can I not give you my appetite? Help me!

And why can I not stay focused on any task that does not give me immediate gratification? I’ve been reading Augustine, and some of the commentaries have been quite technical— even tedious. I can’t focus for more than a paragraph or two before I feel compelled to check my email, get up, stretch my legs, eat a cookie, etc. God, I want to live life the hard way. I want to do what matters; I want to understand the mystery of You (as if such a thing could ever really be understood). But the flippancy of my million small acts demonstrates otherwise. Am I only lying to myself about my true desires? Who am I really? Should that question frighten me? Whether it should or shouldn’t, it doesn’t. Somehow I “know” in my very depths that I do love you, however much these personal contradictions confuse me.

I wish I knew what steps I could take to curb this undisciplined nature of mine. All I can say, God, is that I am willing to be corrected. Help me in your mercy, somehow. Help me love you better than I do.

Happily there is a little humor in all of this. Today I went walking in the park with Augustine’s On the Trinity, and I could not comprehend what was written there no matter how many times I read it over. “God,” I said aloud, “My brain is broken!” It’s true. These last couple years I fear I’ve gone soft intellectually. I’ve allowed myself to gorge on gluttony, feeling sorry for myself over a living predicament I’ve been unhappy with. Why have I let myself waste away so pathetically? Why have I done so little reading? Such shallow personal processing? So much emotional, spiritual, and physical “consuming”? God, empty me! Make me lean again; build spiritual muscle on me, even if the training is hard.

Anyway, today in the park I was whining to God about my inability to comprehend Augustine, and God said, “Well, Dear, it is my Trinity you are reading about here. It’s not exactly easy stuff.” I remembered then a story I once read about Augustine. One afternoon he was walking along a beach, also tying to understand the Trinity (did his reflections on that day later become what I myself read today?) After some time, Augustine met a boy who was going back and forth with a spoon between the ocean and a hole he’d dug in the sand. “What are you doing, young man?” Augustine asked. The boy replied: “I am trying to put the ocean into this little ditch I have made.” Augustine walked away thinking, “That is exactly what I am doing. I am trying to put the fullness of God into this little mind of mine.”

So is it okay then, God, that I am where I am, frail as I am? Helpless as I am? I don’t know, but I do ask for your help. I want to love you as you love me. I am so grateful for your love that I want to return it. I want to honor it with all the dedication of my soul. Teach me, Jesus. I love you. I love all that you are and have been and will be in me. 

*Vitalia Tee is a pseudonym.

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