Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Long Underwear

How's that for a title? Give me a break. . .it's not even 7 o'clock yet.

I got up early this morning to wash the load of clothes containing my long underwear, as the high today is in the 30's and my dress slacks are none-too-warm. Rather than go back to bed while they were washing, I made the responsible decision to type up the lesson plans I neglected to put on the official form over the weekend. Now that is finished, the washer is almost done, and there is no sense in me going back to bed for the 5 or so minutes before I need to put them in the dryer. Although, I should go cook some oatmeal for my breakfast, so I will be back momentarily. . . .

While that cooks (it's a mixture of real rolled oats and a seven-grain hot cereal, so it takes a few minutes), I will share an excerpt from a Dietrich Bonhoeffer devotional I was reading last night. I picked up a collection of Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons a few weeks ago, in an effort to understand more of the Church celebration of Advent. The author uses Christmas and Advent somewhat interchangeably, but does understand the purpose of Advent, and the majority of the sermons thus far have penitent focus. To understand where I am picking up, first read Daniel 10:1-2, 8-9, 15-19. Without further delay, here is the excerpt with appropriate citation below:
Such a moment is strange to none of us, certainly not to any owho have seriously sought to live with God. When we are disturbed by the chaos in our own personal life, when we are not ready to face it, when again and again every security fails us and there is no firm ground under our feet, when our life hangs between good intentions and shame, when it becomes inevitably clear that we are weak, when some unmanageable fate comes over us, a great sorrow or a great passion and we are horrified at the inevitable working out of this fate, when we can see only how faithless and hopeless we are caught in our errors or when friendships are finally broken, when withthe best will in the world we cannot find reconciliation with the other, in short, when we take seriously the whole human chaos in which we are stuck--then it all comes over us and we say to God: Lord, I can bear no more. I can't take any more. No, I don't want any more. I am too deep in the mire. God', don't speak any more to me, for I will not hear you. God, we have nothing more to do with each other.
And then it happens that we want to hear something new and at that moment, we hear afresh: "Peace, courage." Courage, which God gives is like a mother taking hold of her child who is out of control with so many faults and failures, who is now very unhappy and begins to cry. She takes his hand and gives him a new chance: "Now, let's try that once more." Courage, courage--so God speaks to us when we are disgusted with ourselves.
And now what happened to Daniel can happen to us. His was a special occasion, which we today can understand as scarcely ever before. God says, "I will speak to you," but Daniel cannot hear. Can we? Is it not so with us, that in this unholy turmoil and helplessness, we say, "God go away!" Yes, we know it is stupid. But if you come, then it is all over. Untold anxiety, God's judgment on our people, on all we do. . .courage, courage! To what end? That we become stregthened men and women, who hear God's voice of judgment on our people and it will lead one day to a more obedient people and greater faith."

"Fragment of a Devotional Talk During Advent," December 1, 1932
taken from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons, edited and translated by Edwin Robertson

I confess that I have often been guilty of this kind of attitude: the one that says to God, "Enough. I can't take any more. I can't talk to you or listen for you to talk to me. I am too weak." The second sentence in the first paragraph resonates with my own memories of these times. And at such times, I often feel like the child he describes, being gently but firmly told, "let's try this again." To what end? That we beome strengthened men and women, who hear God's voice of judgment on our people and it will lead one day to a more obedient people and greater faith.


Naomi Joy said...


I've seen that book advertised recently - it sounds good. I love Bonhoeffer, although at times he is awfully...convicting.

Naomi Joy said...

JUST in case you were wondering, I'm getting tired of looking at this post, even thouh it was a good one. In case you were wondering.