Who Am I?

by djgorena

I am currently reading a book entitled “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is a great read and although I have heard of it for many years, this is the first time for me to go through it. I am sure that it will not be the last time either. At the beginnng of this volume is a memoir of Bonhoeffer written by G. Leibholz and he writes out a poem that Bonhoeffer wrote prior to his death in a German Nazi concentration camp. The title of the poem is “Who Am I?”

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
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 colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
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 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!

It is melancholy is it not? And yet you see the living hope that is in the fact that God knows that I am His. Do you belong to the Lord? Who are you? Better still, whose are you?

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