Our Hearts Are Restless

By Deacon Adam Salter Gosnell

The answer to a restless heart. St Augustine holing a burning heart,

Today I offer an article from my churches weekly letter. The adult class is reading Confessions. I resonate with this more than I care to admit. [I have added all italics, bold and underlining.]

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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.

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May our hearts burn because He first loved us! Join me in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:

3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 

*Image from: image St augustine

Andrea Van Boven (Madden): I like to think I am a radical lover of Jesus, but I live in a house and pay bills and look like I fit in with respectable society, like most people. What goes on in my head and heart are hopefully the things that betray the look of "normal" that comes at first glance. I hope those things inside of me seep out to actions as well as words of hope and encouragement. I pray that these in turn will lead others to know the loving creator who knows us so intimately that he has a number for every hair on every head.

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