You know that feeling of reading something that somehow reaches into the depths of how you feel – sometimes confirming what you knew was there all along and sometimes uncovering something you didn’t even know you felt? It’s both an alarming sense in that someone who doesn’t know you writes with depth of conviction and understanding and at the same time a comforting sense in the reassurance that you aren’t crazy and you certainly aren’t alone.
I’ve had a couple of those experiences in the last week.
The first came from In The Name Of Jesus (a Henri Nouwen book on Christian leadership): “When ministers live their ministry mostly in their heads and relate the Gospel as a set of valuable ideas to be announced, the body quickly takes revenge by screaming loudly for affection and intimacy.”
The second is a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written while he was in a prison cell during WWII. It’s entitled Who Am I?
“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 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 to-day and to-morrow 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!”
When was the last time you experienced this same sense of being known from an author (or poet)?