“Who am I?”

While awaiting execution in a Nazi prison in WW II Germany, Dietrick Bonhoeffer wrote some poetry. Among them is a poem entitled “Who am I”. It is a profound reflection with a liberating conclusion…

 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, O God, I am Thine!”*

 …In the confusion of outward perceptions and inward struggles, we can find rest in knowing that we belong to God–no matter how others see us or we see ourselves!

Blessings,

David+

(Trnaslation from Christianity and Crisis, May 1946)
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About padredavidfell

Priest in the ICCEC. Retired Army Chaplain
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