What My Son Taught Me About Augustine

Dear Lewis,

Slowly, we’re getting settled into our “transition home.” For the next several months we’ll be living in grandma and grandpa’s basement. It’s really not a bad setup. Well, except for all of the accessible dangers.

For example, we used to have a door that would close off our kitchen. Now we have what a creative realtor would call an “open floor plan”, with the kitchen, dining room, living room, storage and office area all being the same room.

The problem is you’re able, and determined, to get into everything.

Your hippie mom uses vinegar and other natural substances so you’re safe from cleaning products. You’re not, however, safe from slamming your fingers in doors and drawers, nasty stuff in the trash can, heavy jars of almonds and coffee grounds on the Lewis-height window sill, books on the shelf, scissors and pens in the cup on the desk, all the items on the bottom two shelves of the fridge – and that’s just what I remember deterring you from this morning.

We’ve bought you tons of toys. Every grandparent and friend has contributed to your collection of stuffed animals, large plastic musical instruments, cardboard books and other age-appropriate toys. But you want to play with screws, and highlighters, and wine bottles, and everything in the recycling bin.

This morning, out loud, I asked you, “Why do you only want to play with what will hurt you?!?!”

Standing over you, pulling a cookbook and dishtowel out of your hands I realized you and I aren’t any different in that regard. I’m sorry to tell you that when you’re 30 years old you’re still going to act like an infant when it comes to gravitating towards what will hurt you.

When you get older I’ll teach you about a guy named St. Augustine. He fathered a child at 17 years old, because he loved sex more than holiness at that point in his life. One of his most famous quotes is: “Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” Years later he would help develop an idea called “original sin.” I now wonder how much the actions of his child played a role in his views of being born sinners, or at least, born into sin. I think it’s pretty obvious how much his own life contributed to his views.

People disagree over the validity and details of original sin, but here’s what I know:

Your mom and I never taught you to always gravitate toward what will hurt you. We didn’t teach you to crawl away when we say, “Come here.” We didn’t teach you to shake your head “no” when we ask you to let go of something. Likewise, Nani and Papa never taught me to lie.

These things came naturally to you and I – come, present tense, for me, if I’m being honest – as if they are our default setting.

I guess what I’m trying to say is after watching a nine-month-old for five minutes it becomes obvious that it’s in our nature to venture where we don’t belong, put our hands on what will hurt us, and put into our mouths what will potentially kill us. Five minutes with most adults shows that that proclivity doesn’t go away with age.

I’m not saying I agree 100% with St. Augustine’s belief. I’m saying I completely, 100% understand why he believed it. And I’m certain he and I agree on something far more important than the source of our depravity; the cure for it: Jesus.

In Christ we are a new creation. Old things pass away. All things are being made new.

I love you, Lewis. Be patient with yourself. Being made new isn’t easy.

– Dad

Do you find yourself in the same boat as Lewis and me – bent on destruction?

Do you spend more time thinking about your sin than you do the cure: Jesus?

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photo credit: Jed Sullivan via photopin cc

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