Chapters 15-19. A question we have probably all asked at one time or another was this: When will I ever use this? We may have asked it in school, or in a lesson our parents tried to teach us or something more. But have we ever asked God to help us to use those things that we have learned in our childhood? And have we tried to ask God to help us discern those things that we learn into a focus into those things that we will in fact use to become closer to God, the ultimate purpose in our lives?
For this is how Saint Augustine begins Chapter 15, with a prayer asking God to help “me come to love thee wholly.” He further comes to the insight that in what we learn or do we should seek to avoid those things that are vain (things that do not lead us to God) from those things, where we could have received the same benefit were we to focus upon things that are less vain.
For what Augustine reflects upon was what he know sees as a lack of quality in his childhood. He did not focus on what was important, and he resented the discipline imposed upon him. He wished to play, but not always at those things that were found to be helpful to the formation of a boy into the type of man who achieves the way in which God calls him to be.
For in what Augustine learned as a boy showed the folly of the gods of the Greek world. Far from being the divine being worthy of seeking in a deep relationship, that can only be guided by the love of God for us and the gift of his grace, Augustine found himself being caught up in the vanity of subjects and readings that only proved the weakness of the gods and fed his own vanity.
And his pursuits had no higher or noble purpose. They did not lead him to pursue or pray or reflect upon those things that would have led him closer to God. And so Augustine feels somewhat deceived because the things he was taught were really of little use to the quest of accepting God’s salvation.
Questions to Ponder
When you consider your schooling and the subjects you learned in school, what comes to mind as the subjects and topics that you felt led you to God? What led you away from God?
In what ways are you able to appreciate today what you were not able to appreciate as a child in terms of what your teachers or parents were trying to teach you?
In what ways did you learn the importance of being disciplined to something that you might not have enjoyed at the time but later in life were to come to know and see its purpose in your life?
How were you taught about God as a child? And if you were not, how would you describe the ways in which you found values taught?
Is there a way to see or understand the nuance of learning things for the intrinsic value they hold, and things that are frivolous or vain?
Note: The text that we are using did not include a chapter 14.