In our consumer-driven society a high market value is not placed on self-reflection, but before we get too far into this conversation I’d like us to take a minute to be honest with ourselves. How much of our confusion about Christianity comes from our own reluctance to find the answers to the questions that we say we want answered?
In his book, Confessions Augustine (A.D. 397) wrote:
“In my youth I had prayed to you [i.e. God] for chastity and said, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” I was afraid that you would answer my prayer at once and cure me too soon of the disease of lust, which I wanted satisfied, not quelled. I had wandered on along the road of vice in sacrilegious superstition . . . not because I thought that it was right, but because I preferred it to the Christian belief, which I did not explore as I ought but opposed out of malice.”*
Augustine claimed to be searching for truth, but, as he confesses he was motivated out of anger at the ‘religion’ of his mother, and really didn’t want to be bothered with the truth just yet.
Does any of this sound remotely familiar (remember, we’re being honest)?
How often do we, in our search for truth and clarity hope to not yet find the answers we seek? How many times to we find solace in our search and forget (or deliberately neglect) to take a long, hard look at the answers as they come? How often do we experience a sense of solidarity with other searchers that don’t really want to be found, but can claim if called to the mat that “we were searching?”
Do we really want the answers, or are we simply wandering in circles because we’re afraid of what those answers might be? Are we so angry at the hypocrisy of our parents or our teachers or our pastors/churches that we will sacrifice the truth itself for the search?
Are we too often like the character in the Gillian Welch song, Look At Miss Ohio, saying, “I wanna do right, but not right now?”
I, for one have long been guilty of Augustine’s folly. It seems to me that, especially in the artistic world it’s cool to search for truth as long as we don’t actually find it. Here’s to real truth-seeking and non hypocritical prayers.
* Aurelius Augustine, Confessions (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1961), Book VIII, Chapter 7.