This week we are going to sit with a poem and some scripture focusing on the question of “Who am I?” The poem, written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was an incredibly interesting person who changed the way much of the west looks at Christianity and ethics. But he is mostly known for his book Cost of Discipleship and his letters and papers from prison where he spent the last part of his life as a Nazi prisoner. Literally weeks before he was put to death he penned a poem “Who am I?”
For me this is one of the more powerful writings he had and it shows a struggle that is very raw and very real for most people. Who are we? Are we the people we know ourselves to be, or the person others see ourselves as? For Bonhoeffer, this was ultimately a futile question, because the only one who knows us completely is God.
For many, of us the fact that we do not fully know or understand ourselves causes a great deal of frustration and difficulty in our lives. Starting early as children and intensifying in most of the transition times, we are faced with that very difficult question and often the answer is illusive. What makes this so illogical is the fact that if there is anyone we should know, it is ourselves! But alas . . .
For many the struggle to understand oneself makes it impossible to have faith. For others how they see themselves, whether that is positive or not, can also get in the way of seeing God. What is interesting in Bonhoeffer’s poem is that he recognizes that there is the person who he is, there is the person who he tries to show others, there is the person others see, but ultimately the only one who sees him fully is God.
It is in the knowledge that God knows him better than even himself where he finds the comfort and strength to carry forward, knowing that since God knows fully, God will extend his Grace because more important than the question of Who am I is the comfort of knowing that God fully knows who we are.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen