The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Confessions I.vi
I’ve been preparing to teach tomorrow on Augustine’s Confessions and there is a lot we could cover in our class session: there’s the conflict with the Manichees, there’s Augustine’s gradual realization that evil is nothing but the privation of the good and the related ideas of vice as a counterfeit good and the nature of sin as disordered desire, in short there’s all the things people always talk about in relation to Augustine–and for good reason. Those are major ideas that are worth diving into and thinking deeply about. Those are ideas worth wrestling with and probing. But the idea that my heart and mind have returned to over and over again is the passage I began with.
It is a prayer. And it is, perhaps, one of the most foundational prayers our hearts can make when we encounter God as he is: “My soul is too small for you. My life is too broken for you. My sin is too rampant for you. So Lord God, would you who are the ultimate Truth and Good enlarge my soul, heal my brokenness, and make me holy.” Augustine knows that this is a work only God can do, not that we don’t have a part to play in it, but it is not our work. To think that we can do it by our own efforts is “putrid pride!” and further sin which “maliciously damages our own souls.” But when we turn to God and invite him to work in the same way Augustine did, God graciously responds and moves toward us in kindness and mercy. The heartfelt prayer of Augustine is one God delights to answer for it is asking him to do in us what he is already in the business of doing: redeeming us and making us new.