Monday, January 09, 2006

Rendered Restless

"Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." (Proverbs 9:17)

Augustine famously prayed: "O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

Restless hearts tend to want more stuff, and to want it at any cost. And the lie, according to Proverbs 9:17, is to believe that something gained deceitfully is "sweet." However, if we gain something through theft ("stolen" water) or in some other shameful way (bread "eaten in secret"), we cannot enjoy it with our whole heart. Our heart is too weighed down with guilt or shame to enjoy what we have seized.

But who would want to steal water or bread? That's the second part of temptation. "Water and bread" symbolize that which we must have to survive. When we are moved by greed or discontent, we tell ourselves, "I can't live without this." We treat what we do not need as what we absolutely must have. But God has made us capable of surviving on much less than we long as we also have him. If we don't have him, however, enough is never enough.

I write this as one who has been on both sides. My enjoyment of God has helped me gain contentment, yet my human nature has often rendered me restless. I guess that's why my favorite Augustine quote concerns the day when this struggle will be over once and for all. Speaking of the day we will one day see God and be completely satisfied, Augustine wrote: "There we shall rest and we shall see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise. Behold what will be, in the end, without end!"

Restless no more.

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