“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 the 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? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!” [written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his prison cell.]
The last sentence of Bonhoeffer’s poetic words touched an emotional reality in my own life that could be true for your life too. I couldn’t resist tying it to this Scripture that reveals a truth about Jesus. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.[John 2:23]“
Our hearts are broken by that Biblical truth because it reveals a reality we can barely acknowledge about our own reliability. We think we know ourselves but we wonder, do we, really? We know, in our hearts, the words we use to describe our faith are sometimes more desire than truth. We know, in our hearts, there is a restless longing that the best of those things will be true, but are they? We know the emptiness of prayers that search for words our hearts can’t find until we admit we are only beginning to recognize our need.
I was going to end that last paragraph with “Jesus gave Himself for us!” Then I realized that was just a comfortable cliche. Jesus knows us more completely than we will ever know ourself. He didn’t give Himself to us! He entrusted Himself to His Father, on our behalf, to complete His love despite the truth He knows about us. Get emotional about it! That is the recipe of reality that sustains us when all we can say is “Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!”