Nostalgia and Grace, by Carolyn Lee (page 11)

Two Spiritual Autobiographies

This is one side of the story.

While I was apparently enjoying worldly success and arcane aesthetic satisfactions, I was paying a heavy emotional price. For me there was no relief from the mind, no respite from the self-imposed demand to find out more, to achieve new insights into what I knew, and to write about them convincingly. Scholarship had become my addiction, and the spontaneity of my pleasure in music was becoming dulled by too much knowledge.

Then one day I read the “Confessions” of St. Augustine. Up till that point I had thought of Augustine only as a “Church Father”, and a pretty irascible one at that. But from the first pages of the “Confessions” I met a different man from the one I had imagined. This Augustine was an ecstatic convert, pouring his heart out to God, and telling anyone who cared to read about the course of Grace in his life. The book held me like a novel. I read of his steadfast refusal of his mother’s Christian faith, his sophisticated but dissolute friends, his dalliances in the brothels of Carthage, the woman he dearly loved, their brilliant son who died in his youth, his extraordinary scholastic achievements—and the climactic moment in a garden in Milan when his lifelong struggle with Christianity fell away, and he surrendered with tears to a call in his heart that he had never before been able to accept.

At that point I put the book down. I was shaking. For the first time in my life I consented to feel the intense desire for God that had always moved me also. But up till now I had never fully allowed it. And I saw why. It was too strong, too uncontrollable, too much of a threat to the familiarities and consolations of my way of life.