Restlessness is a gift, a gift I feel throughout the day. I feel it when I finish a season of the Great British Bake Off and want more; I feel it as I wonder what future ministries I will do after ordination, whether it will be working in a parish, a school, or with migrants. Restlessness causes us to search, and this is a movement of grace, but it may not always feel like that. Restlessness takes on different forms, from the immediate “What will I do with the next few minutes?” to the “What am I doing with my life?” This restlessness draws me out of myself, either elevating me or bringing me down. The feeling of elation, of being joyful and charitable, is a sign of finding God. But, the searching comes before the finding.
Reading Augustine’s Confessions in philosophy studies helped me to articulate this draw I have for the divine. The often-repeated line from the text is: “We are restless until we rest in you, O Lord.” The years of prayer have made this clearer to me each day: I was made for God and find my rest in God. When Augustine found the divine, the Beautiful, he couldn’t shake it. When he let his defenses down, the enthrallment he found made a claim on him for the rest of his life.
For my latest music release, “Beauty Ancient Ever New,” was inspired by this prayer in Augustine’s Confessions:
Late have I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee!
For behold Thou wert within me, and I outside; and I sought Thee outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that Thou hast made.
Thou wert with me and I was not with Thee.
I was kept from Thee by those things, yet had they not been in Thee, they would not have been at all.
I wrote this song with the idea of being restless and finding the “pearl of great price.” But as the prayer iterates, I realize that God found me and loved me first despite the mess that I am. Recognizing this movement of freely given love has captured me and has not let go.