Thou Knowest, O God, I Am Thine!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian, pastor and author, who lived in Germany during World War II.   

His book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” was foundational to my understanding of Christian life.  He wrote, “Only (the one) who believes is obedient, and only (the one)  who is obedient believes.” His life became a demonstration of that faithfulness.

From the beginning of the Nazi rise to power in Germany,  Bonhoeffer vocally resisted their inhumane policies, towards Jewish people. Later he would become part of the German resistance.  Bonhoeffer  was arrested on April 5, 1943. Eventually, he was transferred to the Flossenburg concentration camp, where he was executed two weeks before the camp was liberated.

Outwardly, he was the picture of confidence, yet inwardly he questioned himself.   While in prison, Bonhoeffer wrote this haunting poem, asking who he really was at his center.  The person other people saw, or the one he thought himself to be.    

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cells 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 thought 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 colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations 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 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!  Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Whatever we might think of ourselves on any given day, God’s love remains constant.  We are claimed by God, as God’s children . . . Not simply on our good days, or a single moment in time.  We are claimed for eternity.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. Isaiah 43:1b