Who Am I?
“I give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Ps 139:14
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young theologian and pastor, was martyred by the Nazis for his stance and participation in a plot against the life of Adolph Hitler. His writings have been an inspiration and influence to many in their spiritual journey. None better than his short poem called Who Am I? which is really a personal reflection of himself—his identity and worth. It goes as follows:
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!
Less than a month after penning this, he was hung in the gallows at Flossenburg concentration camp, Germany. Reflecting on his words brings understanding to the raw emotion many of us feel at times in the course of our journey. Difficulties, distractions, crazy schedules, demands on our resources, not least of which is our time…and we begin to wonder about who are and what our unique role is in God’s mission to the world.
David had a similar time of contemplation, and out of that reflection came Psalm 139. It begins with a declaration of God’s infinite knowledge and insight into David’s life and ends with a prayer of the same—David asking for that divine insight and knowledge to be manifest in his own life. And in between, David declares the wonders of God’s sovereignty and “everywhereness” that dominates David’s identity. No matter what the journey holds, remember that God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—is attending to you, knowing and guiding you in every step you take. Rest in the reality of his presence.
Blessings on the Journey,