Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, and Satisfaction of Soul

“… now that my groaning is witness to the fact that I am dissatisfied with myself, you shine forth and satisfy.”
— Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
There’s a pattern to our confession, as a soul’s release from bondage is procured.
It’s the pattern for the Christian life and far too few of us, much too little of the time, actually practice this ancient response to the Holy Spirit’s convicting goad.  And I shrink when I read those words back; no criticism of you, more criticism of me!  But that’s humanity’s lot.
Confession is a necessary process for transformation, yet we’ll have no need of it if we aren’t vulnerable enough to allow the Spirit to search us; to find within ourselves those buried sources of iniquity.
Confession and repentance are why the Christian life is harder than a worldly life — harder yet better.  The Christian life is devoted to the truth, to the fact of wrongfulness in the sins we commit, and to repentance.  It’s hard to own up to the things we should’ve done better; to the things we shouldn’t have done at all.  It’s humiliating… for a moment.
But confession is a clean pain involving primary emotions.  If we don’t confess what we’ve done wrong, anger may prevail; a secondary emotion that sees sin spill over the edges, burning others with the caustic nature of the untamed tongue.  But that clean, primary emotion pain is a healing variety of pain.  It’s good for us.  It tends us toward growth.
As I confess my sin before my Lord, in safety, where there’s no condemnation, He blesses me in my owning of my truth — His truth for me to own up to.
Our groaning is a sign of our dissatisfaction, not with other things, but with ourselves.  It’s the sign of sin.  And yet it’s so normal to our human condition to complain.  When we see our dissatisfaction is represented in moaning, we can acknowledge God, and then He shines forth to satisfy.
Confession is the key to a soul’s release; God’s gift of peace.
Augustine is possibly the Church’s finest exponent of humble contemplation to the ends of confession and repentance.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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