No, no Advent Calendar this year. But I am writing during this beautiful time of preparation. Total disclosure, I am still battling the cold I caught two weeks ago. I missed the first Sunday of Advent Service. I watched on-line but it’s not the same as sitting beside the people you love, singing together, praying together, taking in God’s Word together as the Spirit moves in and all around you.
It feels like two steps forward, one step back lately, as it often does. Am I the only one? Some people seem so on task and efficient.
But no comparing with others now! The tree is up, the lights are strung! I am who I am. Hmm, that’s been said before. Right. I know Whose I am.
I was invited to participate in a Spiritual Direction class by my friend, Shelly Schmor, the Director of Discipleship at Brew City Church–a church near and dear to my heart. We meet face to face and have deep rich conversations.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this past week’s lesson had me contemplating Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s poem Who am I? He wrote it while in the prison cells of the Nazi Third Reich, awaiting execution:
“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
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.
“Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless amd longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though my hands were
Compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
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 contemptibly woebegon 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!” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Most of us are free to step outside whenever we want, see the colors of nature, the sunlight’s changing reflections on the water and can experience the changes of seasons. It’s such a gift to be able to hear the birds, breathe in fresh air, and feel the wind wash over you.
How often am I thankful for all this?
I am reminded of my neighbors like Ms. Winnie who is a walking ray of sunshine. On Thanksgiving morning as we were chatting on the sidewalk, she shared how she gets up every day and does what her late brother, who in spite of his many struggles, taught her to do. He would start the day giving thanks for ten things. She said, ‘I can do that!’ And she does.
And it was such a good reminder. Ten ‘thankful things’ go by in a flash. I find it continues throughout the day. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28.) That promise changes everything.
I want timeless value in my life. I hope to write timeless words and live in a timeless way. Who am I? is a question I can’t answer apart from Christ, the Christmas Child who came and is coming again. This is Advent. Our time of preparation to meet Him face to Face. Are we ready? Will He surprise us this Christmas?
Who I am follows who He is, the Resurrected One. I enter in through the Door of the Cross He has opened for me/us, to a new resurrected life, here and now. Gone is the old, and in, is living in and with grace, in expectant joy and with hope.
I might have learned this the hard way by living on my own terms for too long. Sometimes it’s still tricky, knowing whether I am living for God or for myself. I may think I am, but am I? I have to pray often for discernment. I know that I can’t do anything of timeless value in my own strength. Christ is the Vine, I am a twig.
When I feel helpless and hopeless I take my hopeless helpless self straight to God and simply say just that, “Oh God, I am hopeless and helpless.” And what happens when I get down on my achey knees (that I now need a chair close by in order to get back up) and confess my shortcomings? It’s a Mystery, one that Dietrich B. held on to and didn’t let go of, but the indwelling Christ moves in me/us, by His Holy Spirit and I am “fed” and led. We are fed and led.
Who are we? We are unique children of God created and redeemed by grace. “We are one body in this one world,” I just heard on Pandora.
“We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) And that is an incredible thing. We are saved by grace through faith. This is a gift from God–its not achieved by our own work. Immanuel!
Pastor Bonhoeffer’s poem has left its mark on me, and I keep finding new answers to the question.
Who am I? is a good question to ask God. The answer comes about through the personal, persistent, patient movement of God in us—the Divine. The Dance of His Spirit moving in and between us and everything we do.
We are each designed to Dance in God’s beautiful arms.
Ms. Winnie and me.
How do these days of preparation stir your heart? I would love to hear. You can comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d prefer to continue the conversation.
Contemplating Advent Day 2, 2022 and sending love.