The NEW Psalms: II. The Day Arises
April 2, 2010
Engel Encounters Hate
April 8, 2010

My friends,

I have celebrated Easter with you and with it the resurrection that is central to my faith, the very fire of my perseverance. But it is not joy which I feel, however much I embrace the truth of God’s omnipresent Love. Rather, I am stunted by a deep and lasting fear; I am lost in loneliness.

The good and founded soul knows nothing else but God’s love, and therefore, I question to what end and of what nature these two things come that drive me downward, even though I am to be uplifted in the resurrection. For it is not happiness which greets me this Easter Sunday, not only happiness, but doubt. How, when all the world is celebrating, am I lamenting?

Be sure I count as inviolable Truth the life and death of Christ, but his renewal according to our comprehension does not mean that we are renewed to a simple life without pain, fear, or troubles. Rather, I think, it means the opposite. We are that much more equipped to handle the obstacles of life, if only because we are not weighed down by fear of death.

What fear haunts me, then? I liken it to the Paul I have envisioned: the sometimes-stoic preacher-prophet entombed in a prison cell awaiting the final blows of persecution. It is hardly appropriate to compare myself to Paul, and yet, it gives me a sense of purpose. If he was so condemned to live with oppression, even as he oppressed, so, too, might I endure it—not because I am so influential a Christian as was he, but that I have my call and with it comes the hardship I now face. How many Easters did Paul wake to, knowing his death might be right outside the door at the hands of Romans or enemies of Christ? And how did he gird his soul not knowing precisely the manner in which his call would be lived out in those waking hours?

I write you these things not to sour your faith or temper your spirit. Simply, I write them in the honesty of a Christian soul who has known deep happiness in Christ, and, even in the celebration of new life, a lingering sadness that does not dissipate with the Lord’s triumph. Let this be a commiseration for hardened hearts and weary souls; we are nonetheless without the great and lasting Love, and the promised Salvation, of Jesus who is Christ.

I have called myself further to hold fast to the faith which sustained me. For even as I envision a dialogical link between the many faiths of this world, it is impossible for me to begin the conversation without a bond to Christ. In my desperation, where do I turn, if not to him? My mother once told me in my fear of abusing faith: “It is yours to use as you need it.” In my heart, I recognize these words, and know that faith is a durable thing, beyond even my anxieties. Nevermore can I confess its institution or dissolution. These are fully in the purview of God.

Even so, according to God’s love, I will find my way. On the path, I worry I weigh down those who know my sadness and cannot strip it from me, but I likewise forget that their ear is God’s ear, their voice, God’s voice, their comfort, God’s comfort. And when would I fear burdening one who cannot be burdened?

Onward, souls, and to the point of triumph! Not triumph always with gladness, but the perpetual triumph in the knowledge of saving Love, of the unfathomable redemption of Christ. I so often count myself unworthy of it, and in these darker hours, I need no burden on my soul which questions my own worth. Who am I to count myself unworthy? Who am I to cast judgments upon myself? Let me be free from these at least, and I will unshackle myself from the constant groans that have so long continued.

Regardless of these aches, I leave, finally, at peace, and faithfully consonant with all the great commandments of God. Namely: Love the neighbor as thyself, and care nothing for how you will be cared for. Leave these things to God, and let yourself be nurtured. For I do not think I am competent enough to be my own caretaker; why else do I consume doubt and drink of anxiety?

All through the trials, and unto the final day when joy will be my name and namesake, I remain your brother, your friend in Christ,

Jeff

2 Comments

  1. Jason says:

    Don’t get lost in your fear so much that you lose sight of who you are to the world and especially of who you are to your friends and family. I think the restlessness you speak of is a natural feeling, but only you can take it to an unnatural place where it can eat at you and break you down. Ride the unexpected wave to new shores, but do not let yourself break to be swept in its undertow. You always have an ear to bend here!

  2. David Hodel says:

    Jeff, I on the other hand, though filled with sadness also have the gift of perpetual joy. I think Bonhoeffer would be of interest to you – one of his greatest poems is, “Who Am I?” Perhaps you will find a mirror of yourself…

    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 and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

    Struggling for breath, as though 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 hypocrite before others,

    And before myself a contemptibly 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, 0 God, I am Thine!

    March 4,1946

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