As a publishing company launch team reviewer, I have been reading a colleague’s forthcoming book about Saint Augustine .  It has been the most important read of my life so far, and I hope you will read it! Why? Because it returns me, yet again, to the wisdom of Augustine, a 4thcentury bishop, whose young life was stained with aggressive ambition, relentless restlessness, and sordid living. All he wanted from life was the freedom to be, to go, to escape. Repeat.
We leave in a few days for Lake Superior. The brothers will canoe while I keep camp (in the RV). I have too great a respect for the Ojibwes’ gichi-gami to contemplate 2 weeks on its unpredictably stormy deeps. But, with Augustine ringing in my ears, it puts me in the mindset of trying to understand human restlessness.
Lately, an outdoor sporting goods company called Backcountry has been running Instagram ads about burnout, beseeching people to get outside every day, to take long weekends in Nature,
Even Augustine wrote about burnout, about the vanity of the chase (so did Solomon for that matter in Ecclesiastes). And you will find all kinds of advice to get out and “GO” in the works of Thoreau, Emerson, Muir, Abbey, Leopold, Dillard, and other nature writers.
Their collective point? Humans are restless, and Nature is the balm. But, none of this deals with the fact that escapism only delays the inevitable. That our love of the road, of its freedoms, and that the destination is usually vague and indefinable. Think of the way people dream about throwing off the shackles of work to take to the open road: retiring young enough to travel; taking a year off to see the world; developing a bucket list. Always, the focus is on escaping one’s present circumstances, and none of us is immune. And almost always, the goal is to master and revere creation rather than to revere the master Creator.
Augustine would argue most vehemently against our propensity to flee, particularly when the destination is not well-understood.
The truth that is buried in our subconscious is that this earth is not our home. That nature is not our mother- it neither cares for us nor nurtures us in tender protection-it simply is. That death is the final outpost.
So, where is our real home? Augustine would encourage you to think long and deep about this;
that all the roads we desire on earth will lead to nowhere; that the only true road is the one that leads us home to God.
Christians believe this road is the way of Christ’s gospel, and it’s not a vacation, but a vocation-a lifelong endeavor to be about God’s work.
Feeling the burn of your workaday world? Dreaming of the beaches in Jamaica, the Grand Canyon’s wide-open arms, or sightseeing in Europe? All wonderful things, to be sure. But none of them set your feet on the right road.
As you prepare to enter winter through the colorful gates of autumn, I pray you can find some time to sort out why you feel so restless, and Who it is that can lead you to the road of peace. And, paddle on, even when it’s into the wind in rough waters.
Smith. James K.A. On the Road with Saint Augustine. Brazos Press. Available October 1, 2019. #OTRWithAugustine. More info available at See more about Jamie’s book here: