Our Hearts Are Restless …
does the title of this column mean? It’s taken from the first Christian autobiography of Western Christianity, The Confessions of St. Augustine. This is one of the Christian classics, and I encourage you to read it. It is the story of St. Augustine’s life and conversion to Christ. At one place in the autobiography, he says, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in Thee.”
chose this title because it sums up the whole story of our lives. We are all people of restless hearts. We see it especially in the lives of people who take great risks in order to have thrilling experiences: mountain climbers, sky divers, those involved in “extreme sports,” and all those people who seek thrills in their lives. But we also see in the average everyday person, for we all seek to avoid boredom. We all have something important to us, whether it’s working on the lawn or in the garden, bike riding, an interest in antique cars—anything that we find gives us pleasure and meaning in our lives. We always seek something more so we won’t be bored.
my college years I became acquainted with a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning.” The author of the book was a European Jewish psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi death camps during World War II. As one of the ways he used to survive that horrible experience, Frankl studied other prisoners in the camp, trying to see why some people survived even the most terrible experiences, and others failed to survive. What he found was that those who had something to live for—who had some meaning in their lives—tended to survive, while people who saw little meaning in their lives usually perished. After the war, Dr. Frankl build a whole school of psychology based on the importance of meaning for healthy human life.
was a gifted intellectual who spent his youth and young adulthood seeking something and not knowing what it was. He became involved with the heresy of Manicheism and different philosophies, lived with and had a son with a woman whom he never married, and experienced great success as a teacher of rhetoric (a combination of speech and grammar, more or less). But he was not a happy man and knew somehow that there was something missing in his life.
, St. Monica, prayed for years that he would find God in his life. Monica was a Christian, married to a pagan Roman solider. They lived in North Africa, which at the time (4th century AD) was largely Christian. Augustine was never baptized as a child and was not raised as a Christian, despite Monica’s desire that he would be. After Augustine became a famous teacher in the area where he grew up, he moved to Italy and eventually to Milan. Because he was a great teacher of rhetoric he would go to listen to people regarded as great speakers. He found one who changed the course of his life.