"I Came to Love You Late"
“I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever.”—Psalm 52:8 I’d like to introduce you to someone who has been a tremendous influence on me. He’s a character who once admitted, “I was ashamed to be less scandalous than my peers.”
He was a questioner and searcher who navigated through life, alternatively running from the truth, denying the truth, and finally, relentlessly seeking the truth. He’s now referred to by title as “Saint,” but I think of him as my friend Augustine.
He died centuries ago. But the tales, the insight, and the soul-baring story he shared with the world have impacted my life and ministry in a profound manner. Augustine’s story, aptly titled Confessions, is refreshingly honest, probably more so than I will ever be. He has been described as “a great sinner who became a great saint.”
Born in 354 A.D., the son of a poor, pagan freeman and a devout Christian mother, Augustine was unusually intelligent. Shoving aside his mother’s prayers, he spent his adolescence in rebellion, exploring sexual pleasure, and running with a gang.
Eventually, an intense struggle plagued his life as he wrestled with his intellect, his mother’s prayers, and his spiritual hunger.
He tells the story of that struggle and his ultimate passion for God in his Confessions:
“I love you Lord, not doubtingly, but with absolute certainty. Your Word beat upon my heart until I fell in love with you, and now the universe and everything in it tells me to love you, and tells the same thing to all of us, so that we are without excuse.”
Augustine taught me that no matter where we are in life, no matter what we’ve done or how far we’ve strayed, it is never too late to come to the Lord and surrender our hearts and wills to His love and mercy.
“I came to love you late, O Beauty so ancient and so new,” he wrote. “I came to love you late. You were within me and I was outside, where I rushed about wildly searching for you like some monster loose in your beautiful world. You called me, you shouted to me, you broke past my deafness. You bathed me in your light, wrapped me in your splendor…you touched me and I burned to know your peace.” 1May we all long to know His peace with such fervor!
1.Wirt, Sherwood, translator. The Confessions of St. Augustine in Modern English (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing), p. 125.