The O'Nan Family Blog

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Here at Southern Seminary, there is this phenomenon of punishment that professors like to use called "unassigned reading." Unassigned reading is conniving, cunning, and cruel. When you see "unassigned reading" on your syllabus, you immediately think "optional," "volitional," "not required." Then you read the fine print. What "unassigned reading" really means is that you must read hundreds and hundreds of pages of text (in addition to the required assigned reading) in order to acquire a certain grade. The books that you read are not specifically designated or assigned, but may come from a large bibliography of texts provided to the students by the professor. Unassigned reading translates, "You must read a whole lot in this class, but at least you have some freedom in choosing what you will read."

Last semester, I was quite disappointed when I realized that my church history professor had included the phrase "unassigned reading" on his syllabus. But I decided I would make the best of it. I scanned down the list of readings and saw Augustine's Confessions. Since it was a classic and I had never read it, I decided I would include this book as part of my "unassigned reading."

From the time I opened up to page one, I was hooked. Augustine wrote as though he were speaking to me, as if he wanted to share his life, his struggles, his heart, his sin, his intellect, his very being with me. He was so intimate that at times I felt as if I were reading something that I shouldn't, something that he really meant to reserve for his "prayer journal," not for me. He was transparent and open. He was truthful even when it hurt. He showed me what it means to be human, what it means to struggle with sin, and what it means to be united with Christ.

I'll leave you with just a few of the many treasures from Augustine's Confessions:

Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.

There is no doubt in my mind, Lord, that I love you. I feel it with certainty. You struck my heart with Your word, and I loved You."

Those who do not want to find their joy in You (which alone is the happy life) certainly do not want the happy life... And certainly the happy life is joy in truth, which means joy in You, who are truth, god, my light, health of my countenance, my God. This is the happy life which all desire; this life which alone is happy all desire; joy in truth is what all desire.

But what do I love when I love you? Not the beauty of the body nor the glory of time, not the brightness of light shining so friendly to the eye, not the sweet and various melodies of singing, not the fragrance of flowers and unguents and spices, not the manna and honey, not limbs welcome to the embraces of flesh: it is not these that I love when I love my God. And yet I do love a kind of light, the melody, the fregrance, the food, the embracement of my inner self - there where is a brilliance that space cannot contain, a sound that time cannot carry away, a perfume that no breeze disperses, a taste undiminished by eating, a clinging together that no satiety will sunder. This is what I love when I love my God.


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