In this chapter, Augustine is repenting of his childhood folly. With the eyes of an adult, he sees clearly that his parents and teachers really wanted what was best for him and he knows now that he should have listened.
Don’t we all do this? I think everyone can look back at their childhood (especially our teen years) and be embarrassed or even ashamed by bad decisions, defiant behavior, and those moments of, “What was I thinking?” or “If only I had listened!”
The good news is, no matter what we do, no matter what bad choices we make, no matter how we disappoint, frustrate, or defy our parents and teachers, God can use everything for something greater. I can look back on the dumb things I did as a teenager – and I had some real doosies! – and I know that I learned something from every single one. Even though I didn’t know it, and even though God was the last person in the world I wanted to hear about at the time, He was working in my life. All of those things formed and shaped me into the person I am today. I regret many of the choices I made as a teenager, but I would never ask to change them or take them back because, without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I’ve heard people ask, “Why does God allow abortion?” In response, I’ve pointed out the courageous women who speak out against abortion because they had one. When a woman uses her abortion experience to encourage others to choose life, God is working through her bad decision to save lives! When I see one of these women, proudly standing there proclaiming that she is, “Silent no more!” I can’t help but think of the devil just writhing. When she had the abortion, the devil was clapping his hands and cackling with delight, but the whole time, God just sat there, maybe even grinning a little, saying, “Just wait. Wait till you see how many babies she saves.”
As parents, we should never forget the mistakes we made and how they helped to form us into the people we are today – flaws and all, and when our kids mess up or start doing dumb things, take heart. Keep praying for them, guide them as much as they will let you, and never lose hope. God can take the very worst situations and use them to accomplish His will. And sometimes, those mistakes, can be the best things that happen to them.
Confessions, Book 1, Chap 10
And yet I sinned in this, O Lord God, Creator and Disposer of all things in Nature (but of sin only the Disposer) O Lord my God, I sinned acting against the commands of my parents and of my teachers. For what they, with whatever motive, wanted me to learn, I might have put to good use later on. But I disobeyed, not because I had chosen a better way, but from love of play, loving the honor of victory in my contests, and to have my ears tickled with fables that they might itch for more. The same curiosity burned in my eyes more and more for the shows and sports of adults. Those who gave these shows were held in such repute that almost everyone wished the same for their children, and they were very willing that the children be beaten if these very games kept them from their studies by which they wanted them to reach the point of being teachers to others.
Look down with compassion on these things, Lord, and deliver us who call upon You now. Deliver those, too, who do not call on You, that they may call on You and that You may deliver them.