Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Come Down, O Love Divine...
Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure.
Where your treasure is, there is your heart.
Where your heart is, there is your happiness.
It is not often that we think of them all today: pleasure, treasure, heart, and happiness. But they are all intertwined and connected. That which is our pleasure is that which we value most of all. That which we value most of all is what occupies our hearts. That which fulfills the desire of our heart is what will bring us happiness. Of course, Augustine was not thinking in terms of things or experiences but of God -- the God who alone could bring rest to his restless soul and heart.
God has come to us through His Son to be our pleasure, that which we value most of all. This is not because of God's jealousy but that we might through him find happiness, contentment and peace. If God is the pleasure we seek, the treasure that occupies our hearts, then He will deliver to us the happiness and contentment we seek most of all. This is not some romantic description of things but how we were designed and how we find again our peace and our place.
It saddens me that even Christians tend to see God as a means to an end rather than the end itself. We tend to view our relationship with God as a means to obtain what we want in the hopes that possessing what we want will bring us happiness and a contented heart. What we so easily forget is that God is the end we were created for. Though sin has kept us from knowing the fulfillment of who we are and thus obtaining that pleasure and contentment we seek, the longing remains in us unfulfilled until it is fulfilled in Christ.
We will build idols and create gods to fill the emptiness within. We will increasingly pursue a pleasure which is more and more riskier in the hope that it will return to us the peace and contentment we seek. We will turn every gift and every activity into an unrelenting goal in the desire to fill what is missing within us. And all of this we have done and continue to do. Consider how we like to scare ourselves with movies, books, and experiences that take us to the edge. Consider how we worship our work and work at our leisure until we lie exhausted but unsatisfied in our beds, restless in our sleep as well as our daylight hours. Consider how use drugs and alcohol and sex as a way of running away from our lives and running toward the elusive dream of pleasure.
Augustine's own life is the story of such a restless pursuit of things and experiences that would fill his emptiness. It is not a symptom of our own time but a chronic need expressed in every age and people that we want what is not good for us and we desire what cannot satisfy us. And so we come to God, often at the end of a life wasted in the vanity of our endless desire and in the pursuit of a goal these means cannot provide. It seems like a dramatic moment, a conversion experience both sudden and powerful. What we miss is that God is wooing and coaxing us all the time. His Word and His people, His grace and His mercy, His Spirit and His power are at work all around us and if it would seem sudden to us it is not because God only then noticed us and had compassion upon our plight. We are the ones who wake up to His call as if His voice had never spoken before and who think that Christ is new and the Gospel a novelty of this moment.
So we would be mistaken in our presumption but it is a common mistake. And a mistake easily forgiven. But the main thing is that we learn what only Christ can teach. The pleasure we would seek is His good pleasure, the treasure we would possess is the treasure of His grace, the desire of our heart is what is transformed by the triumph of His grace, and the happiness we have longed for so very long is the happiness that delights in Him. Truly the restless Augustine had it right -- there is no rest for the pursuit of pleasure, for the desire for treasure, for the emptiness of our hearts to be filled and for the happiness that brings contentment.... no rest until it rests in Thee.
1 Come down, O Love divine;
Seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near;
Within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.
2 O let it freely burn,
Till worldly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light
Shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
3 Let holy charity
Mine outward vesture be
And lowliness become mine inner clothing—
True lowliness of heart,
Which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
4 And so the yearning strong,
With which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the pow’r of human telling;
No soul can guess His grace
Till it become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.