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:
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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!
Do you get confused sometimes?
What do you think?