Monday, September 13, 2010

Who Am I?

I am currently reading a biography of one of my heroes in ministry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The German Lutheran theologian whose classic 'Cost of Discipleship' has challenged believers for decades to live authentically transformed by a grace which transcends formalism and legalism, comes alive in this recent work, 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy'.

It was Bonhoeffer's commitment to faith which caused him to stand against the capitulation of the church to Hitler's Third Reich and ultimately against the Nazis themselves. It was a commitment that led him to participate in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler, and which led to his martyrdom in a concentration camp in April, 1945 about a month before the surrender of the German army.

Included in this well written biography by Eric Metaxas, is a poem by Bonhoeffer that I think offers a window into a conflicted but impassioned soul - a soul of one fully seeking to reconcile himself to the ultimate concern to which he is devoted and the internal trembling of the consequences of action.

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

Equally, smilingly, proudly,

Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

Tossing in expectation of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

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