In with the old to nurture the new...
The saying, “out with the old in with the new,” is fairly common. The saying is shared when someone or something moves towards the future letting go of what no longer works; that which is obsolete.
I find myself in direct conflict with the saying as I continue reading a book series my parents bought me over the years entitled, “Heroes of the Faith,” by Barbour publishers.
When I began the series, I randomly picked up one or two of the forty-something-volume series. One day, at the urging of a friend, I started over from the beginning. I am reading “Heroes of the Faith” in chronological order. I've just completed the biography of Saint Augustine.
I've known about St. Augustine for most of my adult life. I was first introduced to him in my Church History courses in seminary. Despite being declared a Protestant at birth, some of my most meaningful lessons in faith sprung from the true-life stories of human beings canonized as saints through Catholicism. St. Augustine quickly became one of my favorites. (Well, besides Saint Catherine of Siena; my patron saint.)
The fact that he was the rebellious son of a praying mother offers me hope as I pray for my own sons to find their way to the God and faith of their family. Once Augustine committed his life to Christ, there was no turning back. Augustine's desire to dig deeper and learn more is inspiring. His love for and use of the written word reminds me that none of us should ever ignore the spiritual gifts God gives us. To do so is the ultimate slap in the face of a loving God who needs all hands on deck to redeem this broken world.
Augustine's desire for healthy debate and spiritual challenge encourages me to realize that some arguments are worth temporary hostility if the ultimate intent is to discover God's eternal truth. Strong and outspoken Christians are necessary in a selfish, misled society where challenges to real faith pop up daily.
I laughed as I read the tendency of Augustine to grow increasingly frustrated by “baby Christians” having no desire to grow beyond God's gift of salvation. I was comforted to know that someone as revered and educated as was Augustine wanted to lay the smack down on a regular basis when stupidity overruled spiritual truth. The Apostle Paul bore the same desire and passion in his ministry.
And then, no sooner did I find comfort through Augustine’s story than I was challenged by his ongoing struggle with ego and anger. St Augustine, dear St. Augustine, I understand.
God mercifully ended Augustine’s life prior to an invasion where he would most surely have been tortured and his parish dispersed. Augustine passed away peacefully into that City of God that he preached about and wrote about in his latter days.
The trait in Augustine that I could most relate to and value was his desire to comfort his parishioners in his final days. His message was simple and profound. Eternal life awaits us and will certainly make up for our current suffering and impending threats to our physical safety.
Like Augustine, I want to carry this message to my grave. A message stressing that our fears, our hurts, and our mortality are nothing when compared to God’s love for us. What we endure here cannot possibly compare to the glory discovered in the hereafter. Spiritual life outlasts physical death – when we choose Jesus.