As a family, we recently watched a half-hour cartoon on Augustine. While watching, my three-year-old daughter became interested in the “mean guy” (Augustine). Well, he was mean but he turned good, I said, because Augustine came to love Jesus. And that changed his life.
After the show, I grabbed a couple of books by Augustine. One of which is my favourite book of all-time, The Confessions. On the cover, Augustine sits in the garden with hands in his face and a pear tree behind him. My daughter was fascinated by the pear tree.
That pear tree represents a highly symbolic act in Augustine’s life. He and some friends went to their neighbour’s property and stole pears from his neighbour. For Augustine, it was his original sin in the garden of delight.
When Augustine describes why he took the pears, he simply claims he did it because he wanted them for the sake of doing evil. He did not even eat the pears but dumped them out elsewhere. He did evil just to do evil.
This helped me explain to my daughter how evil works. We do something bad because we want to enjoy the bad thing. But later, we find that doing evil does not make us happy. Only grace can change us from bad people to good people, from sinful people to forgiven people.
For nearly 1,600 years Augustine’s experience at the pear tree has taught Christians how sin works and why it is so evil. We do evil because we enjoy it. Only the grace of God can reverse our course so that we can pursue what is good, and right, and perfect.
If a three-year-old can understand this reality, anyone can. Why not read The Confessions for yourself? It has stood the test of time. Christians have benefited from it for centuries. Through the Spirit, God has used Augustine’s prayer to God—The Confessions is entirely a prayer to God—to help Christians understand their hearts, love, and God.
If your heart has ever felt restless, take up and read. For in The Confessions, Augustine explains how his restless heart found rest in God. And don’t we all want that?