Confessions: Grasp Your Hand
Listen to my supplication, Master, so that my soul doesn’t stagger under your instruction, so that I don’t stumble in testifying to your mercies, by which you tore me away from all my ruinous pathways. Thus you’ll grow sweet to me beyond all that led me wrong, in my willingness to follow it. Thus I’ll love you most mightily, and grasp your hand with all the strength of my inmost being. Thus you’ll tear me away from every trial, clear to the end. — Saint Augustine, Confessions 1.24
It was God’s mercies that tore us from our “ruinous pathways.” We seek God’s instruction that we may continue to study, meditate, and dwell in His mercies. Our sinful desires compete with our soul desires. Our flesh desires to go back to what injured it, while our soul desires to back to the one who made it. But by being instructed by His mercies God grows sweet to us beyond all that led us wrong.
I absolutely love the imagery Augustine uses of his innermost being. The image of our innermost stretching out, reaching as far as it can to grasp the hand of God. Although it was painted centuries later, what comes to mind is Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. Although This quote and the painting are separate, I cannot help but compare the two.
One mystery of Michelangelo’s masterpiece is whether Adam and God are letting go of each other or if they reaching out to each other. Regardless of which one it is, when I look at the painting I cannot help but notice two things: the way their fingers are painted and their body posture. Adam’s posture is relaxed and his reach toward God is blasé. While God’s posture is focused and His reach strained. Both reach out toward each other but God is much more invested in the reach. God strains to reach us and we are blasé in our reach. As if our life did not depend on the grasp of the almighty hand.
Unlike Michelangelo’s Adam, Augustine is waking up to the urgency of the reach. God’s hand is reaching, and Augustine wants his soul to reach out, that God might grab hold of him and pull him up as He did Peter (Matt 14:22-33). That in the reach, he may be ‘torn’ from every trial, clear to the end.
Lord, instruct me in your mercies.
Note: These are my daily reflections as I go through Saint Agustine's Confessions. Unless otherwise noted, I am using Sarah Ruden's translation of the original text, and the NIV.