"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, July 18, 2011

Who Am I?

I was cleaning out my desk at the Hospital and looked up again at the poem I have over my desk. This past year of my life as a Chaplain has been one of considering anew my calling and role as a pastor. Bonhoeffer, when in his cell imprisoned by the Nazis, asked himself the question "Who am I?" Times of transition, of which I am in one, are often times of self-evaluation, self-doubt and reorientation. The poem particularly speaks to me now, both in the uncertainty and anxiety of change as well as the certainty within changes in life.

“Who am I?”
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer (March 4, 1945)

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warden
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though they were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I 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,
trembling 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very moving poem... powerful!