We’ve got a Thomas Kinkade look alike print hanging on our livingroom wall (see picture above [Nicky Boehme is the artist]). In Kinkade fashion it is a picture of an inviting old fashioned cottage on the water surrounded by lush and colorful foliage. I was gazing at it today and I noticed something new, something that is obvious but that I’d never noticed before. All the lights are on inside the home, every window has light coming out of it.
When I woke up this a.m. and asked God what to blog on I heard Him tell me to listen to the audiobook I downloaded last week, St Augustine’s The Confessions of St Augustine. So, I started listening, hoping I’d hear the snippet that God wanted me to share…it is a beautifully crafted piece of prose and densely populated with life-giving, noteworthy snippets (do find a good translation and read or listen, highly recommend this one!!). No snippets hit me but I listened for a good hour or so. Then I saw the print and it all fell into place. So, here we go :-)
Augustine was a bishop in the only Christian church of the time (no East/West split and no Protestant Reformation in sight). He lived in the late fourth/early fifth century and wrote the book to confess his sins to a skeptical, scrutinizing Christian community. His past was speckled up pretty good–he had some significant sins to confess and he confessed them without blinking…his confession is unabashedly forthright and without excuse (although he does give his father “credit” for not reining him in when he started moving toward immorality–seems his father was more interested in him getting a good education and becoming a cultured man and was less interested in his character development).
So, where does the print come in? Well, it is those windows…in Augustine’s confession he talks about how darkness entered and took over his life as an adolescent, as a teenager. One by one the lights in the windows of his life went out. The first room to go dark was his sexuality–as a teenager he sunk into lust and fornication (sex before marriage). The second window concerned respecting other’s boundaries/trespassing: he became a thief, just for the thrill of it, not because he needed what he stole (he came from a well-to-do family). One by one the lights went out and he admits that his house went completely dark. Black empty holes where beams of light once streamed. He became so dark, he started lying about his dark deeds to his buddies so that he would appear even darker than he was, so they would still be his friend. He sunk into complete depravity, which he describes as a living hell.
I haven’t heard the rest of the book, so I cannot say how the lights went back on, but I am intrigued to hear the rest of the story. Christ can not only lead us out of depravity, He can transform us into truly holy people (Augustine was canonized, he is Saint Augustine in both the East and West) and even lead us into Christian leadership (he was a tippy top church leader and an ultra influential theologian).
Grateful our God is so very big and so very merciful!! When we look at Christian leaders and holy people it may be prudent to look less at their past and more at who God has transformed them into. If we write people off according to their past, we may be missing out on one of the most light filled houses around, a true blessing to any neighborhood…