Confessions: To whom am I telling this story?
To whom am I telling this story? It isn’t of course to you, my God, but in your presence I’m telling it to… the human race… And what’s the story’s purpose? Obviously, it’s so that I and whoever reads this can contemplate from what depths we must cry out to you. But what’s closer to your ears, if the heart humbles itself in confession and the life is lived in faith?— Saint Augustine, Confessions 2.5
Why do we share our stories? I have always disliked ‘testimony’ time at church. Honestly, It often feels like a time of superstition and anecdotal evidence for God’s providence. There are often perfectly reasonable explanations for most ‘miracles’ and ‘providences’ said during these times. Now I am not saying God can’t, and that he does not intercede, rather, what I am saying is that it often feels meaningless.
In our American Christian culture, we love to hear amazing conversion or miracle stories. There is a market for them. So much that there is an opportunity of fame for any new convert who is willing to brand their experience. These stories are repeated over, and over to the point where the story is not about God anymore, but about the convert. The story is no longer about transformation, but evil. People walk out of these experiencers saying “that person has a crazy story” rather than saying “God is powerful.” I might be cynical, but I think motivations are important.
Obviously, Augustine is not piqued by people’s testimonies at church, but his recognition of his story’s audience is important. The audience is not God, but people. Either we can tell our story to impress people or to do the noble thing: so that I and whoever reads this can contemplate from what depths we must cry out to [God].
I desire this, to tell my story, not for people's attention, but to move people to contemplate the depths from which they must cry out to God. God may not be the audience of my story, but he hears it. And when does he pay attention to this story that he has already heard? And in fact, was there when it was being written? He pays attention when the story is told with a humble heart, and its implications lived out in faith.
Lord, bring me close to your ears.
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.