Eugene Cho

who am i?

As much as I want to believe life is simple, clear, and compartmentalized…it’s far from it. There are moments of simplicity but those moments are rare.

As a result, I sometimes wonder to myself:

Who am I?

In turning 40 this past year, I certainly feel more at peace with my identity but in the face of the complexities of the world around me; complexities of so many issues and situations…I sometimes feel a contradiction and tension. Things, thoughts, forces, emotions…all pulling me in different directions. As a result, I wonder…

Who am I in the face of such complexities?

Recently, I’ve been pondering and reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer – again. His stuff is too good not to read – again and again.  As some may be aware, he was a Lutheran pastor and a pacifist faced with the dilemma of Hitler and the Nazi regime:

Bonhoeffer became part of a group of two thousand pastors who formed the Pastors Emergency League. They opposed the state approved Nazi church. When pressure from the government increased, this group changed into the illegal Confessing Church. The Confessing Church believed that Christians should follow God first, not the nation or Hitler. Bonhoeffer served as the head of the Confessing Church’s illegal school.

Bonhoeffer was a pacifist. A pacifist does not believe that violence is ever the solution to problems. But as Bonhoeffer heard stories of Jewish people being killed, his ideas changed. He decided that pacifism was a good theory, but to not act was to act. If he, and others, did not act, they were letting Hitler succeed. If he did nothing to fight the evil he saw, he was supporting the evil. He said this:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us innocent. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Bonhoeffer eventually had the chance to leave Germany but eventually decided to return in an effort to re-build his country. After much wrestling, Bonhoeffer joined a group trying to kill Hitler. Their attempt failed and he was sent to prison where he wrote some of his books [of which couple are on my list of must reads for Christians].

But I wonder about what he must have felt and experienced:

  • tension
  • anxiety
  • conundrum
  • conflict
  • wrestling
  • conviction
  • desolation
  • discouragement
  • [                       ]

You feelin’ me?

Maybe it’s not supposed to feel right. Well, maybe I should just led Bonhoeffer speak  for himself. Read his poem entitled, Who Am I? This was also written during his imprisonment

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
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!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Do you get confused sometimes?

What do you think?

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15 Responses

  1. DD says:

    Bonhoeffer got right the internal struggle that we all can experience if we really allow ourselves to feel and imagine. He embraced the tension rather than fleeing to the land of numb and feeling “Just fine.” This is one of a handful of poems I memorized several years ago. I find myself reciting it while I walk or drive sit in my office praying. Like Bonhoeffer, we feel the tensions in life. They never go away. We wonder if someone is going to “find out” what we’re really like. Do we dare tell our parishioners, our fellow pastors, the truth about who we are, or at least the truth of how we feel? I get to the last part of the poem and I open up my arms in a physical gesture to let God in. And I say, “Oh God, whoever I am, thou knowest, I am yours.” … And sometimes, very sweetly, God responds by answering with, “I Know. You’re tensions don’t bother me. You remain my son. I love you. I am proud of you.” With that, I let out a big breath, steal myself and press on with my day.

  2. Original Grand Torino says:

    I get internet stalked, discussion of age is involved but those who stalk act in anonymity. The stalking has stolen jobs, the stalking has prevented children being born, has been against the wellbeing of my family and has separated a family. I do not suspect the loving Hmong of St. Paul to be behind this stalking but those in my home state far away. The stalkers are of the worst possible kind. I think important is not discussion of age but if the stalkers are not the great Hmong of St. Paul, they are those of my homestate, more important would be to talk of suing these criminals and anywhere these criminals have acted against life, against work. Here we are talking about social injustice. I would consider with all respect, that this is another example of internet stalking because now in real life, it is reported to the police. Stalkers can only stalk now on the internet and other limited forms, somehow they see the ISP where someone goes and then one sees a posting like this. The stalkers acts should see institutions where workers aid the stalking to be sued for millions of dollars. All should be for the Hmong if this is the case, who treat me well. I play soccer, the Cambodians treat me well, NOT those who stalk which has been the Church, my homestate too since I can not read minds, the act of stalking from these menaces can not even be described in words appropriate for these forums but I would say, those who disrespect one’s position in the world should pay for their crimes under the legal system of this country and then, we would all say, they are not to be respected, they are criminals, they are the worst of the worse. They are not loving caring people like the Hmong. This is nothing only, with all due respect, another stalking post and I do not fault Mr. Cho. The truth is the Hmong can treat me how they want but I suspect this is not from them but from criminals and that is a kind word to use. I do believe this to be another case of internet stalking and again, one’s privacy is violated, one’s wellbeing is violated. Let us name the stalkers!! And I know, they will not have Hmong names, they will not have even Asian names but they will be the name of criminals whose acts of daily emotionally violence against life needs to be taken to the police as these criminals like to provoke trouble and then call and scare people with the police. .

    Okay, now the Christian thing to do, I have been stalked here, NOW, let us name these criminal fiends who should be imprisoned and sued for wages they steal of people.

    • Original Grand Torino says:

      I also wish us to remember as we go through for the millionth time, the demeaning act of stalking that has occurred that at least with my home state, we are talking about people who have used the most base forms of bigotry against a person, so envision the most racist or other bigotted terms imaginable and now, with the stalkers who are unnamed, this is part of the scenario and not just talk of age: as this now does. The truth of the stalkers is that words to describe them is not appropriate to say here as well as the words of bigotry they have used against me. Again, where the tender caring of the Hmong is involved; the stalkers who surely are not the sweet Hmong do not deserve one second of time but to be prosecuted criminally and to the full force of the law and for thousands of crimes.

      • Ben@TIC says:

        @OGT
        I love this stream of consciousness writing. On a serious note, you should register for my composition class. It meets Tuesdays and Thursdays. We will cover subject-verb agreement and sundry other basic forms of writing.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      what are you talking about?

  3. Marsha says:

    Bonhoeffer died April 1945.
    Just sent to correct a post that meant a lot to me, well said and I could certainly identify with it. Who am I? Thank you Lord for know me so well whether the world or I myself do or not.

    • Marsha says:

      (My own corrections-the reason I don’t usually reply!) Last sentence should read–Thank you Lord for knowing me so well, whether either I or the world knows who I am.

    • Sonja Lowe says:

      I agree, Pastor Eugene. VERY well said. As I am reading and pondering Bonhoeffer I’m most encouraged by the fact that his monumental testiment to faithfulness consists in simple “daily obedience”. One of Bonhoeffer’s sermon’s says:
      “So it is with faith too. Either we recieve it anew everyday or it decays. One day is long enough to keep the faith. Every morning brings anew struggle to push through all the unbelief…Every morning of your lives will begin with the same prayer: I believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief.”
      I’m daunted sometimes when I study the “heroes of faith”. But Bonhoeffer reminds me that the great lives consisted in daily decisions. Just like mine…”and one day is long enough to keep the faith.”

  4. Sejin says:

    If Bonhoeffer successfully killed Hitler, is it something he would’ve repented for thereafter?

    I guess my real question is if Bonhoeffer was a godly man, why would he premeditate killing? Even if it is Hitler?

    • Andy M says:

      I’m a pacifist, but I imagine that if I were in Germany during WWII that I would have been conflicted in the same way as Bonhoeffer. When faced with such evil, it would be difficult to not support the assassination of the head of the Nazi government. It isn’t that it makes it right, but if anything it is maybe the choice between two evils. Let Hitler live and he massacres millions more people, or kill him and possibly save millions of people.

      It was a truly desperate situation that I think would challenge the resolve of even the most passionate pacifist.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      sejin:

      that, my friend, is the tension.

      i have asked myself many times, “what would i do?” and honestly, i go back and forth with my answer.

      fwiw, bonhoeffer made his decision and he shared his unease with his own decision.

  5. jchenwa says:

    I get confused sometimes, but who I am never changes. There is an ‘I’ that is unshakable and incorruptible – the True I, really the only I. Bonhoeffer was the real deal. Although he joined the group, he never pulled a trigger thus not trespassing the 7th commandment.

  6. Original Grand Torino says:

    I know who I am, a ‘jerk’, so this was posted also a few days ago so embarassingly, I didn’t find Eugene asking what I was talking about persuasive. But Bless everyone..

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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 2 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 2 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 2 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 4 days ago
  • Father, bless these Iraqi and Syrian refugee children that have already endured so much. As we pray, teach us how t… twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 6 days ago
  • Pray for Iraq. Pray for persecuted Church, minority groups (Yezidis) and Muslims alike who are suffering under ISIS: instagram.com/p/BZF2j6Ngrna/ || 6 days ago