Confessions: The Heart That’s Locked Up Hardly Locks Out Your Eyes,
But whoever testifies to you is hardly instructing you as to what happens inside him, because the heart that’s locked up hardly locks out your eyes, nor does people’s hard surface fend off your hand, but you melt that barrier whenever you want, either in pity or in punishment, and no one can hide from your heat.—Saint Augustine, Confessions 5.1
Augustine begins book five with a beautiful confession about God’s omniscience, omnipresence, creation, the wicked, and the righteous (Book 5, chapters 1 & 2). It is a confession so beautiful that it is best read than summarized. Although it is more than 1600 years old, it reads as if it were written for our time.
In chapter 1, Augustine begins with the question, “Master, who is like you?” he continues on with the quote stated above. Who is like God that already knows what is hidden within the chambers of our hearts? No prayer instructs him on the content of our thoughts. No effort can lock out his eye from seeing our inner workings. Who is like God that our hard surface does not fend him off? Who is like him that can melt the barriers of our soul with either pity or punishment? We cannot hide from his grace or run from his punishment.
What is impressive about God’s power? Is it that he can raise mountains out, of valleys, bring life out of the dust, or place balls of fire in the sky all while keeping the universe in perfect balance? Yes all that is impressive. But power is useless if there is no care, concern, or love for the sentient beings within the created order. We would not care about an all-powerful god if that god did not care about us. Moreover, if this God did not care about us, he would not even bother to reveal himself. And if he did not reveal himself to us then we would not even know he existed. And this God who has revealed himself to us has revealed himself as one who knows us.
David proclaimed, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Ps 139:1 ESV) Jeremiah proclaimed, “O Lord, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you.” (Jer 12:3 ESV) Jesus told us that we are so well known that “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matt 10:30 ESV) Who is like God, that despite his infinite power cares to know the thoughts in our minds and the worries in our heart? If what we praise eventually becomes what we love, then we should pray together with Augustine “let my soul praise you so that it may love you.” (5.1.2)
As Augustine goes on to say, the whole of creation never stops proclaiming God's praise! Even if we remain silent, all things with breath and without breath will praise. A concept well attested in Scripture (Ps 66:4, 148:1-14; Lk 19:40). Creation loves its creator because it never ceases to praise. What does humanity long for? While we can make a long list, is not at least one thing to be fully known yet accepted just as we are? To have someone know the depths of our hearts and not shame us? We always have something to lose in being fully known by humans. Reputation, perception, a job, respect, trust, friendship, etc… but not with God. God has unlimited cosmic power, yet chooses to know you; intimately.
Praise. Do it now. Praise by reading the following Psalm out loud...
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. —Psalm 139:7-12
Lord, “Let all this raise our soul out of its weariness and into you, let our soul lean on the things you made, and let it pass over to you, who wondrously made them. And in that place is our restoration and our true strength.” (5.1.2)
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.