Confessions: I Had Left Myself And Couldn’t Find Me
And where was I myself, when I was looking for you? You were right in front of me, but I had left myself and couldn’t find me. How much less was I able to find you!—Saint Augustine, Confessions 5.2
Augustine prays “Let the restless unrighteous go.” Why? Because when they turn from God “in their blind rush”, they run straight into God (5.2.2). Even in letting us go, we run into God’s clemency or his justice because God is everywhere. “Let them turn around, then, and look for you, because you haven’t abandoned what you’ve created the way they’ve abandoned you: they’re the ones who must turn around.” (5.2.3) Augustine prays for God to let the unrighteous go, and let them return on their own, when they finally realize that they cannot escape God.
In Romans 1:18-32, Paul uses the phrase “God gave them over” three times. And in 1 Corinthians 5:5, Paul encourages the church to follow in God’s example by doing the same. But if God loves us, and wants to save us, why would he hand us over? Paul tells us in the Corinthian text, “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” According to Paul, God will not pressure us into staying because being lost is not a matter of location but a matter of the heart. A person may live according to his/her parent's and communities expectations and walk the straight and narrow, but inwardly want to rebel and grudgingly take every step. Take the prodigal son from Luke 15 as an example, imagine he had stayed, but still wished his father dead and lusted over prostitutes and money.
God gives us over to our evil desires to expose our desires, “so that [our] spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Even in letting us go, we run straight into God’s love or his judgment. We realize how good we had it and choose to return, or we are filled with resentment and keep the course.
What are we looking for when we run? Is it God or is it ourselves? But it seems that the further we run from God, the less we recognize ourselves. We become lost in our own souls, not recognizing where we are within ourselves. And that reality is both love and judgment. God is right there, in front of us, inviting us to turn around.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord—Acts 3:19
Lord, turn me around, that I may find you.
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.