Sunday, February 23, 2014
Lessons from Cell 92
I am sitting tonight with a heart full of poetry and no words. Not terribly productive, perhaps, but beautiful. Deep thoughts have been stirred within me by reading Bonhoeffer's biography; I dread the approaching final chapters, for I know he is executed and it aches me. I dread it, and yet he was so brave a man, so noble a man, you can't help but feel it was a fitting end. I know that sounds horrible, but it's not, when you realize a martyr's death--a crucifixion--is the sort of death Jesus died. And the lives of those who share in that manner of death seem to echo in deep, holy tolls throughout the rest of history. Would the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer rattle us so poignantly if he had lived to be an old man and died of congestive heart failure? I think not. No, people like Bonhoeffer, Sophie Scholl, Peter and Paul and so many others are the people who have left beautiful legacies. It is still sad, though, this approach to re-living a great man's death. Reality and history have been meshed inextricably in my mind, what with the Ukraine Crisis and reading about World War II in Bonhoeffer, and generally being in a thoughtful mood. So I read slowly, savouring the lessons in peace and patience given to me across the years by this kind, extraordinary man, and approach the end of the book a different girl than I began. It is times like these I know I've read a book worth reading.
The day has been beautiful and mild, feathered with sunlight and warmth and the peaceable kiss of Winter's surrender. I would fair say with Browning's Pippa: "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world"; and so it is, in these moments. To live by moments rather than years is such a richer existence. You might say, "That was a bad year", but you could never say, "Those were a million terrible moments." Perhaps that is the key to living under the Mercy: taking life as it is given us, which is breath by breath. More beauty is captured and held and inspected, living this way. There will be room for three hundred and sixty-five sunsets in the twelve-month. I'm nearing my twenty-second birthday; I'll have seen eight thousand and thirty sunsets by the time I've had my birthday, but is that any reason I ought to miss a single one more? I think not. I have kissed the baby's dimple a thousand times if I have once, but is there a reason I oughtn't to kiss it again today and yet another time tomorrow? Someday he'll grow too old for such nonsense, but not for a while yet. I've seen the sun shine through my window every morning (more or less) since I was born, but is that a reason the fire-dart of sun flared through a falling dew-drop shouldn't astonish me as much as it did when first I saw it?
We take too broad a view of things. We've forgotten how to appreciate minutiae. While imprisoned, Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents of a thrush that sang in the prison courtyard every morning, and again in the evenings. He wrote of the gift of solitude and how he was happier he'd been imprisoned, being accustomed to and liking solitude, than another of his friends. This wasn't a Pollyanna triviality: this was a man in tune with God's ways, pressed into the heart of God, living with borrowed and sustained courage and joy in knowing his life was not his own. To be given examples like him and gifts like these, I feel keenly the call to a higher existence and a nobler life. How can anyone not realize we were destined for eternity when they feel these things? I should make a terribly morose Atheist, for I think I would always wish there was an existence beyond this life and always trying to look for it, hoping against hope. Thank God I have access to the same peace and courage as Bonhoeffer. I can live under the Mercy; I can listen for thrushes. Life, lived in step with God's heart, is never truly complicated on His eternal level. Hands fixed on earth, heart fixed on heaven; that's the way to live this noble life.