There is nothing inevitable in the outcome of an honest search for God. The Lord leaves us free, with all the risks of such freedom. There is nothing inevitable, except that His grace is always present to help us. Yet it remains up to us whether we accept it or not.
If there is any text in the long history of Christian autobiographies that illustrates this theme, it is Augustine’s Confessions.1 Written between 397 and 401 when Augustine was already Bishop of Hippo, the book comes some ten years after the moment of his conversion. It gives witness both to the power of divine grace and to the reality of human freedom. In its appreciation for God’s relentless pursuit of his heart and in the joy that came with giving himself to God, the book makes clear that God never forced his hand but was always present, even when Augustine was not yet mindful of that presence.
The better to appreciate a lengthy classic like this, it may be helpful to understand its general structure. The autobiographical part of it is to be found in the first nine of its thirteen books. The pattern used for this part of the Confessions has provided a model that many a later spiritual autobiography uses. It is one that we may think of as a journey outward and a return. These journeys begin with some early recognition of a goal and record the many missteps that the protagonist takes before discovering a successful way to reach that goal.

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