As I engage the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I find a man who serves as an example to me of one who developed a manner of living that allowed full engagement with his people, church, and family life that was centered in a communal spiritual tradition from the church across time. He found a peace between action and waiting in the midst of constant impediment and impending doom. He learned to know his real enemies and still follow his Calling before God. He found peace in this Calling to community with future pastors and leaders of a church with a dreadfully uncertain future. When he left even for only a fortnight in 1939 for America, his journals reveal a man so spiritually invested in this community that the separation for him was intolerable. Now, across three decades, how can we know this kind of love for the Call of God and for our particular churches?
This calling to community, this investment in the Body of Christ broken by war and society, seems to be a way back to peace in an uncertain future. I am learning in community that the tyranny of the urgent is never quite so tyrannical or so urgent. That the admonishments of a sister here in community to remember the simple things need not be an annoyance but rather a call to remember, to care, to be vigilant. I need that reminder. I appreciate that connection. If we take a good look at Bonhoeffer’s short life, we find that he actually had much more time on his hands than a cursory glance will allow. He spent a lot of time in the woods, on long walks, playing and listening to music, reading words on paper, listening to the radio, and how many countless hours in conversation!?!
Life in the twenty first century threatens to turn time against us. We fear time just as we fear commitment to anything that invests us in an uncertain future. There will often be times of intense silence for us, as there were for Bonhoeffer. Times when the situation calls us to be present and just wait when inside we are well aware that much is at stake and yet that at present our only action is to bear witness and suffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has much to teach us about these things, if we’ll only truly engage the many letters, journals, and stories available.
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