dietrich-bonhoeffer

by Leslie A. Baker

In this time of Lenten reflection, I have returned to the writings of one of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, marked by his unselfishness and preparedness to help others to the point of self-sacrifice was executed at the concentration camp at Flossenburg on April 9th, 1945, just a few days prior to liberation by the Allies. Bonhoeffer’s writings focused on Christian discipleship, and they seem particularly applicable today in our modern world that faces the challenges of violence, material obsessions, selfishness, and ethical decay.

The following poem was written during his captivity in prison, and I share it for reflection on your personal spiritual journey during this period of Lent.

WHO AM I?

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
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really 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 colours, for flowers, for the voices of
Birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness
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 to-day and to-morrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible 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, O God, I am
Thine!

As we continue our spiritual journey, what person will you become during this season of renewal?