Over Christmas break I finally broke into a book that has intimidated me for a while. Eric Mextaxas’ Bonhoeffer:Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. However, its daunting 607 pages could not frighten me away once I began.
If perhaps you are unaware of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he grew up in an affluent German home in the time leading up to WWII. His father was the head of neurology and psychiatry at Berlin University. Both parents came from aristocratic families. Dietrich grew up under his mother’s strong Christian traditions and his father’s intellectual approach. At the age of 13, he decided to pursue theology at a purely academic level. However, God had a different plan. He became a theologian but also a pastor, writer, musician, and author of fiction and poetry. Highly educated, he saw with prophetic eyes what was happening to the German church as the Nazi regime took over Germany. He boldly defied the Nazi philosophy and attempts to kick Christ out of the church. His beliefs and convictions ultimately cost him his life in a Nazi concentration camp. After witnessing Bonhoeffer’s death, the concentration camp doctor reported: “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
This book has changed my life in a way that I’m not quite sure how to explain. I found something in this biography that I have not found in a book before. Something in my soul was shifted and awakened. My spirit craved for more, and when I finished it this past week, I was near tears. The days that followed were quite peculiar. Spending so much time learning of a man and his faith developed a sort of bond in my heart with him. It may sound silly, but perhaps you have connected with a fictional character or person of history before in such a way that when the story ends your soul breaks, as if you are being torn away from them. It feels like such a loss.
The more I read, the more I grew to love the man to whom this book was devoted. Never before have I heard a man speak with such conviction and faith. He stood when no one else would. He knew the truth of God and gave his entire life to see the church hold fast to it. He did not let emotions rule his life or dictate his sermons. He spoke in such a way as to give power to the words rather than their delivery. He sought to do God’s will above all. He did not take God’s grace cheaply. It was a cost that he was at peace to pay.
This man has changed my life. I saw much of the same convictions in my own heart as I see the church loosening its grip on Truth. I understood his frustrations in a way I did not expect. He lived life with such service, and if ever he acted out of selfishness it was quickly repented and corrected. His love for God’s Word, and the practice of meditating on it daily was inspiring. He was not self-seeking; he only sought for God’s Truth to be spoken. He did not care about the frivolities of the world.
He enjoyed the goodness of humanity and beautifully joined it with the goodness of God. He saw God’s creation as good, and sought to enjoy it as God did. He was open to hearing the beliefs and opinions of others, but never wavered on the Truth in Scripture. He was steadfast in his trust and faith. He cared for the young and old, devoting much of his time to educating the next generation and reaping wisdom from the older. Even while in prison, he blessed his captors and fellow prisoners.
My heart swells when I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was honest, kind, steadfast, trusting, faithful, devoted, passionate, intelligent yet humble, and ready to serve God in any form or fashion. He confessed to having a temper, but he trusted God to refine him in that area. He was the type of man that I pray to marry someday. His heart was truly after that of God’s. No circumstances caused him to waver. He knew his foundation and stood strong upon it.
My heart longs to encounter men of faith like this. To see them living out the Gospel in this broken and depraved generation. I know they exist, and I do not seek to berate the men of this generation. However, when I look at Bonhoeffer and see his heart, I long to be led by such a man, whether it be in the form of husband or pastor. I long to hear TRUTH spoken unashamedly and boldly. I long to be convicted and encouraged in the same sermon. I long to see the sermons lived out, not just spoken. I long to know a man who trusts God beyond all else.
I am a woman, and I am meant to be led. Perhaps that is why my spirit was so impacted by this man’s life. It is the image upon my heart of what I long for. But the beauty of it all is that Bonhoeffer was just an ordinary man whom the Spirit of God dwelled in. He was merely a reflection of the True God.
Jesus Christ is the reason I adore Bonhoeffer. It was not the man Bonhoeffer that I am drawn to, but rather Christ that I see in his life and words. Bonhoeffer was utterly surrendered to be erased so that God might shine out of him. That is why this man stands out to me.
I pray that I may follow in these steps, put aside my desires, my dreams, and ultimately my will in order that I too may shine Christ’s light so brightly. That I too may walk in the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That I too may live a life of trust in the haven of the Father.
I want to live a life worthy of my calling, and I trust God to help me do so.
I pray that you be blessed and inspired by such people of faith. This world needs Light. Let us not shrink back in fear of offending others, but rather share the Gospel of God with unashamed love.
“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39