I’m quite a restless person. It’s safe to say I haven’t felt content in about two years, and I’ve been struggling with trying to understand this restless heart of mine. While I was living in my college town after graduation, working a great job with wonderful co-workers, I was restless. I traveled all over at an opportunity I had.
I thought travel nursing was going to fix all of that. Instead, I’m restless for home and missing my family like crazy.
I think travel nursing is like studying abroad (except I’m working in-broad) in that the first few weeks take a lot of adjustment and then it’s great!..Except that even when I’m out with new friends, exploring cool places (like the Ben and Jerry’s factory – pics to come!), I still miss home, more than I ever had before.
What the heck is going on!? All I want to do is be settled. Comfortable, settled, secure. Apparently that’s not what the big guy in the sky wants for me.
As philosopher St. Augustine (also known as Augustine of Hippo) wrote in his biographical memoir Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
(I’ll admit I haven’t made it all the way through this book yet. It’s like reading a very personal diary mixed in with a lot of philosophical thinking. It’s quite thick for being a little over 200 pages.)
Ok, rest my heart in God. I can do that!..except I feel like I’m authentically trying my best to follow the Lord, and yet I still feel restless. What is going on!? Why can’t I just feel settled, secure, and comfortable in my faith?
I turned to Google, and a couple clicks later, I found a homily of Pope Francis that he gave to on St. Augustine’s feast day in 2013. Instead of saying restlessness is not desirable, the Pope asked, “what kinds of restlessness does this great and holy man ask us to awaken and to keep alive in our own existence?”
Wait, we should be restless? But I can’t stay in a place for long! I’m unsatisfied and always craving more! Isn’t that a bad thing!? Shouldn’t I be still, calm, and quiet?
The Pope says St. Augustine challenges us to have restlessness in spiritual seeking, encounter with God, and love.
St. Augustine sought much in his life and wanted to know what meaning life had. In his youth, he lived a hedonistic life full of loose women, loose morals, arrogant knowledge, and prideful fame. It didn’t satisfy him. He kept seeking and seeking, eventually finding Christ through a long, stubborn, painful conversion.
As the Pope said, “Augustine was a man who had “made it”, he had everything. Nevertheless, his heart still yearned for life’s deep meaning; his heart had not been overcome by sleep. I would say it had not been anaesthetized by success, by things or by power. Augustine did not withdraw into himself, he did not settle down, he continued his quest for the truth, for the meaning of life. He continued to seek God’s face. Of course he made mistakes, he took wrong turns, he sinned, he was a sinner. Yet he retained the restlessness of spiritual seeking.”
St. Augustine continued to be restless when he met Christ. He wanted to know more, draw closer to Him, constantly.
As the Pope said, “And Augustine let God make him restless, he never tired of proclaiming him, of evangelizing with courage and without fear, he sought to be the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep (cf. Jn 10:14).”
St. Augustine’s conversion had a lot to do with the restlessness of his mother’s love. St. Monica is often called weeping because she shed so many tears over her son. Married to a pagan, St. Monica insisted her children were raised with Christ. St. Augustine was raised Christian but abandoned the faith, and Monica relentlessly sought after him.
As the Pope said, “This, then, is the restlessness of love: ceaselessly seeking the good of the other, of the beloved, without ever stopping and with the intensity that leads even to tears.”
The Pope calls restlessness a gift, something to be desired, something that draws us out of ourselves and towards God and our fellow man, drawing us closer to Divine Love.
I’ve never looked at it that way. I thought restlessness meant I wasn’t doing God’s will because I feel compelled to do something else or do something more. But I guess that’s the point. Jesus never called us to be comfortable and settle for OK. He calls each one of us to be saint, the absolute best versions of ourselves, on fire for Him and one another, carrying our cross with Him.
Restlessness may mean I am always looking for more, but it doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I have. If anything, it challenges me to grow in my weaknesses and make them strengths. It calls me to love others more than they love me. It shows me the face of God where I never expected to see Him.
May we always be restless. As the Pope prayed at the end of his homily, “Let us ask the Lord for you…and for all of us, that he keep in our hearts the spiritual restlessness that prompts us to seek him always, the restlessness to proclaim him courageously, the restlessness of love for every brother and sister. So be it.”
So be it.
Pope Francis’s speech can be found here.