Who Am I?

As my son and I continue our homeschooling ramble through World History, we embark on the era shatteringly known as World War II. We, therefore, must encounter one of my favorite “heroes of  faith,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man so intelligently aware of his times and so devoted to his faith, that he deliberately chose to step into the fray, and joined a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The conspiracy failed. Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement, and eventually executed.

During his imprisonment, Bonhoeffer continued to live out his faith and witness before the guards and other prisoners. Even for the most stalwart of believers in Christ, this was no easy task. Bonhoeffer exquisitely captured his own inner struggle through the words of the following poem.

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
that I step out of my cell
calmly and cheerfully and firmly
like a manor lord from his mansion.

Who am I? The often tell me
that I speak freely and cordially and
clearly with my guards
as if I were the one giving orders.

Who am I? They also tell me
that I am bearing these days of misfortune
with equanimity, smiling and proud,
like someone accustomed to victory.

Am I really that which others say I am?
Or am I only that which I know about myself?
Restless, longing, sick, like a bird in a cage,
gasping for breath as if someone were strangling me,
hungry for colors, flowers, for the song of birds,
thirsting for kind words, for human nearness,
trembling in anger at arbitrariness and petty insults,
driven by anticipation of great things,
helplessly worried about friends infinitely removed,
too weary and empty for praying, thinking, creating,
exhausted and ready to say farewell to everything?

Who am I? This one or the other one?
Am I this person today and a different one tomorrow?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others
and a despicably pathetic weakling before myself?
Or is what is left within me like a vanquished army
fleeing in disarray before the victory that has already been won?

Who am I? Such lonely questions mock me.
Whoever I am, you know me, and I am yours, O God!

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1944)

Although caught in a situation beyond any that those in the general populace face, Bonhoeffer’s words yet resound deeply within the core of so many. I, too, feel his internal struggle as I daily come to grips with who I am. I know that I am a daughter of the King of Kings, the Almighty One. In light of this knowledge though, how can one who longs to do so much be captured by a disease which compels me to such a small life. My home–my bedroom–encapsulate my cell. ME/CFS serves as my guard, restricting my boundaries with undue vigilance, my longings and deepest desires seemingly ignored.  Many Christians try to tell me that am the victor and that I must claim my healing, yet in the light of the whole gospel, these words fall short. And I must discover the me who I really am within my constraints and before my God.

  • I am His daughter, and His lovingkindness toward me has yet to fail.
  • I am His workmanship, and He molds me through His private and sacred means for His glory.
  • I am His bride, and He is simply making me beautiful.
  • I am decreasing so that He may increase, though I may never see earthly results.
  • I am learning what it means to simply be His, with NO limitations on His hand.

I cannot see all or know all, but I can rest in the One who does, and I can place my hope in His love. I can choose to daily surrender any rights I think I may have. I can choose to let His knife cut just a little bit deeper.

Who am I? Just another child longing to be more like Jesus.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

Help! There’s a Man in my House!

I used to have a little boy. A precious, precocious little person running around my home and stealing my heart with each smile. He blissfully raced down the hall, gleefully leapt over furniture, and valiantly defended the castle from all intruders. His fingerprints marred every surface, his toys littered every floor, and his giggles filled every room. He was wholly adorable and wholly my very own son.

As is only appropriate, I suppose, times have changed around the old homestead. The fingerprints still abound, but the toys have switched from Hot Wheels to handheld devices. And that jubilant, ecstatic giggle is, I’m rather reluctant to admit, now a young man’s chuckle. Somehow, right before my very own unbelieving eyes, my little one has transformed into a full-size male human being. How in the world is a mom supposed to adapt?

If we had the culturally normal relationship, I would shuttle Mr. Teen-Whirlwind off to school, from which he would return each evening, relatively grateful for my assistance with his homework. Our interaction would be correspondingly minimal, and we would function on a far less intense plane. Instead, I am a homeschool mom–his primary teacher–and the source of much of his daily burden. Our school-day interaction is successive and requires great diplomacy from both parties. As the adult and attendant authority, however, the primary responsibility for crafting and maintaining a fruitful relationship falls on my shoulders. As his mother, my job still remains to tend to him, heart and soul.

It is quite a bewildering notion to realize that I, the one who has ministered to all his wounds over the years, am capable of inflicting wounds of my own. My words–my very intonation–can cause his tender heart to inwardly bleed. A brusqueness in my demeanor can result in his retreat behind invisible, but tangible, walls of safety. Tis painful to realize that a young man’s mother, his harbor of safety, can become the ruinous storm from which he feels the need to retreat.

Nevertheless, God’s call on my role of mother has never changed. I am still to “train him up.” What must be amended, however, is the way I employ that role. A young man now lives in my home. A young man with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. A young man with a goal of being used by God. A young man who struggles to find himself worthy of these aims and ambitions. A young man who can be cut to the quick when affronted by one whom he needs to believe in him, encourage him, and give him wings to soar.

Truthfully, God created my son to grow to be a godly man, who will one day be a leader in his own life and home. In order to do this, he must grow up out from under me. The way I choose to interact with him can either help or hinder that God-designed process. For him to become God’s man, he must stop being momma’s boy. And I must encourage that growth, especially in rocky times.

How do I do that? When situations arise–as they daily do–I must first step out of the emotion of them. I am, after all, an adult. I need to recognize the wall, acknowledge the bleeding heart. It is imperative that I look at our current exchange from his point of view. By God’s word, I am obligated to analyze my own words and tone. What did I say? How did I say it? Did I communicate what was in my heart? Was my heart right to begin with? I need to allow God’s Spirit to deal with me.

Secondly, my son is deserving of any appropriate apology. Even though he is now a young man, as his mother, I am still allowed to correct, discipline, and instruct; and those corrections, disciplines, and instructions should be respected and obeyed. I am not, however, permitted to talk “down” to him–for he is now a man. My attitude toward him needs to reflect a fitting respect of his manhood.

Thirdly, I am the one responsible for getting the train wreck back on the right track. I must restore him by listening to him, acknowledging the validity of his complaint and how I made him feel, and help him move on in our mended relationship. I would undoubtedly do the same for any other adult. My son should be, in my own heart, even more worthy.

So, it’s true. My precious, precocious little person has gone, but a young adult person, just as precocious and definitely as precious in my eyes, has taken his place. This young man still longs for my guidance, love and discipline, but he now requires my respect. He still has smiles meant just for me, which capture my heart, but now I am honored to share them with his ever-enlarging world.