Why Every Young Adult Should Read Augustine’s Confessions

A guest post by Austin Gohn

I’m so excited to have this guest post from author and young adults pastor, Austin Gohn. His book, A Restless Age, releases today! Austin does a fabulous job of bringing this ancient saint into our present cultural moment, and his book is one every person who works with twenty-somethings should pick up! See my endorsement below, grab your copy today, and enjoy Austin’s post!

I graduated from college, moved, got married, and started my first full-time job all in the same summer.

I had a degree in intercultural studies, but I moved right back to my hometown. It looked the same as when I left but everything felt different. I was a young adults pastor, but I felt like I was the one who needed a young adults pastor. (I was barely 23-years-old!) I was trying to navigate multiple transitions without much guidance on how to make sense of so much change at once. And, on top of it all, I couldn’t even figure out how to get WiFi in our tiny apartment.

I needed someone to guide me, someone to let me know what I was feeling was normal, someone who had been where I was—and survived. And, from seven years of experience working with young adults, I have met many young adult who feel exactly the same way.

The Patron Saint of Young Adulthood

A few years into young adults ministry I read Augustine’s Confessions for the second time. It’s one-part memoir, one-part devotional, and one-part theological treatise. And most of the book covers the span of time from his late teens through his early thirties.

This time, as I read, I saw the book in a different light. It was no longer just required reading for one of my freshman courses. It felt like the most relevant book on the young adult years I had ever read.

In Augustine’s story, as told in his Confessions, we see what it’s like to be a twenty-something—but from the inside. We see what it’s like to wrestle with doubt, to try to break the habits we hate, to try to find where we belong, to ride the rollercoaster of romance, and to nearly burnout only a few years into the career we’ve prepared our whole lives to do. While much of the young adult experience has changed since the fourth century, even more has remained the same.

Reading this book not only helped me understand the young adults God had entrusted to my care, it helped me understand myself. Augustine might be the patron saint of brewers, theologians, vermin, sore eyes and printers, but he ought to be the patron saint of young adulthood.

A Restless Age

That’s why I wrote A Restless Age: How Saint Augustine Helps You Make Sense of Your Twenties. I wanted young adults to see how an ancient saint is more relevant to their lives than many of the books out there geared toward young adults. I believe that many of the young adults who take the time to wade through Augustine’s Confessions will come out saying, That’s exactly what I’m experiencing. If this book leads more young adults to engage with Augustine, it’s done its job.

In A Restless Age, I look for parallels between Augustine’s twenties—what psychologist Meg Jay calls “the defining decade”—and the experience of twenty-somethings today. In particular, I organize the book around what I call the five open-ended searches of young adulthood:

  1. The Search for Answers
  2. The Search for Habits
  3. The Search for Belonging
  4. The Search for Love
  5. The Search for Work

Augustine experienced the same five searches in his twenties, even if they looked a bit different. He tried out cults, churches, and total unbelief. He tried to quit habitual lust before it wrecked his life. He lost friends and made new friends. He was in a long-term relationship that ended with a devastating breakup. And, he moved multiple times because of multiple career changes—all before his thirty-second birthday. If you didn’t know I was describing a fourth-century theologian, you might think I was talking about any number of young adults today.

I read Augustine’s Confessions for the first time when I was 19-years-old, but I skimmed it and didn’t see what it had to do with my life. I needed a book that could help me see Augustine the broken young adult, not just Augustine the saint. I wrote A Restless Age to do just that. Augustine might not provide much wisdom for how to get WiFi in your tiny apartment, but he can help you make sense of your twenties—and possibly even the rest of your life.

You can order A Restless Age from Hearts and Minds Books or Amazon.

I had the honor of meeting Austin and his family at CCO’s Jubilee Conference last month.
His adorable son, Levi, steals the shot in this photo!

I’m curious, how have you seen “restlessness” manifest itself in the lives of the college students and recent graduates you work with? In what practical ways are you helping twenty-somethings in the “searches” Austin mentions above? Leave a comment below!

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