From the book, "Finally Alive" by John Piper, pages 9-11
For Augustine, the idol that kept him from Christ was sex. He had given way to his passions for the last sixteen years. He had left home at age sixteen, but his mother Monica had never ceased to pray. He was now almost thirty-two. â€œI began to search for a means of gaining the strength I needed to enjoy you [O Lord], but I could not find this means until I embraced the mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ.â€1
Then came one of the most important days in church history. It was late August, 386. Augustine was almost thirty-two years old. With his best friend Alypius, he was talking about the remarkable sacrifice and holiness of Antony, an Egyptian monk. Augustine was stung by his own bestial bondage to lust, when others were free and holy in Christ. There was a small garden attached to the house where we lodged.â€¦I now found myself driven by the tumult in my breast to take refuge in this garden, where no one could interrupt that fierce struggle in which I was my own contestant.â€¦I was beside myself with madness that would bring me sanity. I was dying a death that would bring me life.â€¦I was frantic, overcome by violent anger with myself for not accepting your will and entering into your covenant.â€¦I tore my hair and hammered my forehead with my fists; I locked my fingers and hugged my knees.2 But he began to see more clearly that the gain was far greater than the loss, and by a miracle of grace he began to see the beauty of chastity in the presence of Christ. The battle came down to the beauty of continence in fellowship with Christ versus the â€œtriflesâ€ that plucked at his flesh.
I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyesâ€¦.All at once I heard the singsong voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain â€œTake it and read, take it and read.â€3
So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sittingâ€¦ seized [the book of Paulâ€™s epistles] and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: â€œNot in reveling in drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and natureâ€™s appetitesâ€ (Rom. 13:13-14). I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.4
Augustine was born again. He never turned back to the old ways. The Wind blew in a garden. It blew with a childâ€™s voice. It blew through a word of Scripture. And the darkness of his heart was dispelled.
1 Aurelius Augustine, Confessions, 152 (VII, 18).
2 Ibid., 170â€“171 (VIII, 8).
3 Ibid., 177â€“178 (VIII, 12).
4 Ibid., 178 (VIII, 12).