What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made thema little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:
Who is God? Who is man? Who am I? Saint Augustine asked these questions after going through the painful experience of distancing himself from God, remaining in sin, human failures, and constant anxiety. When he started writing his Confessions, he was able to put most of those problems in the past, but questions about God, man, and his future remained present. What place, he asked, do I occupy in this divinely made world? Who am I for God and for the people I encounter in my daily life? What is the nature of my true happiness?
He talks about the grandeur, magnificence, might, and wisdom of God – but also the meanness, weakness, hubris, and anxiety of man.
"Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we humans, who are a part of your creation, long to praise you. We who carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. Yet these humans, part of your creation as they are, still do long to praise you. You stir us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you."
Who is God to me? Who is man to me? Who am I? We fear questions like these because they seem too difficult, and so we leave them unanswered for too long. We do not have to turn to philosophical inquiries, scientific investigations, or precise analyses. Saint Augustine says we are a part of God’s creation and marked with pride. Yet we have an immense longing to praise God. This is the way we were created and we go through life carrying anxiety when we cannot do so. This is useful anxiety because it turns us towards God.
“Lord, I am not able to pray. Or rather, I do not put enough effort in it. I fall asleep too quickly at night, weighed down by the burdens of the day, and in the morning I do not have the time. …Yet I hear a constant voice of anxiety and longing. In my heart of hearts, Lord, don’t let the voice stop racking me, don’t let it go away. There will come a time when I will follow it."