by Ryan Mark Richardson
Augustine writes in his Confessions that watching his mentor, Ambrose, read – personally and internally, and not publicly as was the custom of the day – was absolutely revolutionary for him. That reading for Ambrose, and later Augustine himself, would be a meditative time to refresh the mind in the same way that food would refresh the body. Continuing down Augustine’s thought, writing then becomes not just meditative, but medicative, the efficacy of which is determined by the focus. The tone Augustine writes Confessions in, the very nature of the book, as a prayer (confession) to God, cries out that things have not, and are not, as they should be, that Augustine has been both perpetrated by and perpetrator of a fallen world. But the nature of confession, is that we don’t end on the bleakness of the world, but on hope. Why else should we confess? In confessing we hope for mended relationships, both with God and man, the hope that we will not fall again, and the hope that things will not always be like this. And so, Augustine’s writing – with God as the starting point, the climax, and the end (and I cannot emphasize that necessary centrality enough) – becomes a sort of medicine that calls out for the Holy Spirit to administer the Truth of the Gospel to his heart.
In that tradition, I turn this writing selfishly.
Recently, the shattered nature of the world made itself apparent in more ways than I care to count right now. It is a brazen beast – it acts like a bug who has been decapitated, but the lack of a brain has allowed it’s body to keep on trudging along. Unfortunately, this particular brand of bug is a lion-like impersonator complete with fangs and claws and, endowed as such, it seeks to bring horror on all around. It hasn’t recently laid a claw directly on me, personally, lately, but many of my good friends have come into contact with it lately. Friends who I respect and love, who are part of a God-wrought community that have partner with the Holy Spirit to challenge, encourage, and sharpen me and live to glorify God with all of their lives. And not to say less of this community – they are as encouraging as ever – the shattered world has just pressed in on them and it breaks my heart. Whether it be death, loneliness, weariness, temptations to worry or fear, or hurt it just seems to be everywhere I look. And I confess my own fatigue and frustrations through this. It is a constant battle to stir myself up by way of remembrance that there is a Salvation that lies beyond any limited comfort that I can provide and that there is hope in Him coming back to set the shattered pieces aright and mend that which was broken.
The irony in that confession is that I find myself crying out with the rest of this community that our hope is not in this. Be it a friend who has passed, a need for relationship, or my own ability to try to set things right. But that, praise be to God, we serve a holy God who has revealed Himself to be a Redeemer and a Victor over death. And that He is coming for us as a real Lion who will finish the Impersonator and his claws of sin and death and set the world right. That in Him, Creation will be set right, that the Sons of Men will be revealed, that, maybe, that we’ll be able to see the and rejoice with all of Creation proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord who was and is and is to come” and we will be able to sing it to His face, for His dwelling place will be with man.
The new Narnia was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked like it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean. It was the unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here.”
– The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis