II. When I Was Four
In Book I of Confessions, Augustine marvels at God’s qualities that sometimes seem in contradiction. This phrase “You change your works and do not change your plan,” has kept my attention. In Latin, the phrase is “opera mutas nec mutas consilium.” I asked the translator of Confessions for the Loeb Classical Library why she rendered consilium as “purpose.” She wrote back, citing a myriad of applications of the word.
One valence is “a conclusion made with consideration, a determination, resolution, measure, plan, purpose, intention.” I obsess over this; what is God’s will is for me? Am I fulfilling it?
My parents divorced when I was four. Some of my early memories are of their disagreements; I also remember the joy of building a pile of blocks then knocking them down and disappearing into a closet, causing a panicked search.
My bed was an antique, taken from my dad’s mother’s house. It had a pattern of springs forming the base for the mattress. I once I crawled under it in a panic, kicking at the springs; “I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!” What made me fear death so early? Was it really death I was afraid of, or a change in plans?
I remember my dad sitting on the bench of his piano, my mom opposite him on a couch. As they argued, each of them called me to come over to their side. How often I went back and forth, I don’t remember.
How could I keep their attention? Did I have a choice then? How would this be part of your plan for me? “Do you laugh at me for asking these questions and command me instead to praise you and give thanks to you for what I do know?”