For the final episode of Little House on the Prairie they smashed up the town and then blew it up. A fire broke out on the grounds of the M*A*S*H set and they managed to write it into the plot of the final episode. I have no fancy ending to this blog. Just a redirect.
"There's a mountain/there's a lake/there's a people who God did not forsake/there's a river Lord and there's a way/and there's one small word we all need to say/
Hope/for a world of lovin'/hope for a time of givin'/hope is a word worth livin'/let's live together"
Being physically surrounded with loving family and friends is a defense. But it offers no rational defense. How is my emotion and my intellect so intertwined? How can I hear medical descriptions so easily with my head and possible decisions with such a straight face and feel nothing? How can I describe what's happening with such ease and ask for prayer and at the same time know that the future offers no defense against the darkness of such personal loss? My good friend said a week ago as we walked along the Chicago Lakeshore that there really is no defense for death. No rationalization. No ease. You know its coming and that's all.
The clinical descriptions of the physical toll offer no defense. You can know what stage you're in or not but the pain is still there. How can I have all the faith I need, how can God be all I need and yet my body doesn't know that?
My wife just told me how much she loves my mind. We attended the same college but not the same way. The same classes but not the same way. Even studied together but did not process the learning the same way. When she hurts emotionally she actually gets physically ill. I tend to compartmentalize it and feel very little and a hellofalot at different times. Never just when its helpful at the moment.
I want to be alone but I do not. I want to hurt but I do not. I pray and I feel but I do not know with my mind whether any of it works right. My faith is not in what I feel or see. It just is.
There's a good chance the cancer has spread to her stomach and elsewhere. Please pray for dad right now. When someone you love is in this kind of pain it is a peculiar kind of misery. You wish you yourself could somehow be the one to hurt instead. Dad was planning this beautiful getaway over her birthday next Thursday at a Bed and Breakfast and he's worried they won't be able to do that now.
Thanks for your prayers.
Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography, Chapter Ten
“Finkenwalde: 1936-1937” pgs. 493-586
Other Works consulted:
The Way to Freedom: Letters, Lectures and Notes, 1935-1939, Edited by Edwin Robertson, Cleveland: Collins-World, 1977.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Life in Pictures, the Centenary Edition, Fortress, 2006.
Daring, Trusting Spirit: Bonhoeffer’s Friend Eberhard Bethge by John W. de Gruchy, Fortress, 2006.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Life in Pictures, the Centenary Edition, edited by Renate Bethge and Christian Gremmels is a “must-have” when going through Bethge. It offers a pictorial chronology of every person, event, and writing pertinent to the time. By way of example, pg. 100-101 offers photos of Bethge lecturing at the Behrenhoff estate in 1936 and the cover of the issue of Evangelische Theologie where Bonhoeffer’s article “On the Question of Church Membership” appeared. With such a complex chapter as this one, I think you’d do well at times to peruse the wider angle lens that this book offers.
The first paragraph of Bethge’s chapter ten is a reflection on the seminary’s role in the three stages of the German church struggle. Just where Finkenwalde ends abruptly its’ significance is interwoven with the life of the church. Bonhoeffer is left without a building, its occupants are conscripted or imprisoned, but his mission remains unchanged: be a Christian and serve the church! Chapter ten concentrates more heavily than nine on the changes within the Confessing church that weakened it to outside pressure. In the end, the closure of the seminary took place very quickly and unexpectedly. In my reading I felt so belabored by the weight of changes within the church as a whole, that when the expected arrests, searches, and imprisonments finally took place the outcome was a severe drop in the momentum. The action continued for as long as possible, and then it stopped.
Bonhoeffer and the Finkenwaldians were so dedicated to their task, so firm in their resolve, that their faith seems to overwhelm the outcome itself. Yes they are physically removed from their work, very similar to nonviolent resistance itself. And why can’t it be seen that way? Their work itself was a form of resistance without arms against the State. They worked the democratic process at the very point at which that process was denied. Later in the chapter, after the arrests and closures have begun, we find a very unique act of civil disobedience. Bethge writes:
“No attempt was made to prevent Bonhoeffer’s return to Finkenwalde on 5 July. He sent a delegation from the seminary to Dahlem, where an important service of intercession was planned for 8 August. This developed into an open street demonstration because the police had cordoned off the church. The protest march by the excluded congregation was one of the very few instances of spontaneous “revolt” against National Socialism during the thirties. That evening, after vain attempts to disperse the crowd, the police made a large number of arrests. About 250 of the demonstrators, including some ordinands from Finkenwalde, were taken in trucks to the prison in Alexanderplatz where they were temporarily detained.” (580)
“Thus they became involuntary witnesses to a seven-hour search in which every corner of Niemoller’s study was painstakingly examined; it eventually led to the discovery, behind a picture, of a safe containing thirty thousand marks that belonged to the Pastors’ Emergency League. Everyone was astounded at the meticulous tidiness of Niemoller’s desk, which contained neatly written verbatim copies of his sermons; it was something no one had expected of the spirited man.”
That little touch of humanity jumps out of the text at me. With darkness all around, in the face of tremendous fear, these pastors all noticed the unexpected tidiness of their friend’s desk. In my work through chapter ten (and remember with my reading its not just this chapter its all the other texts I can get as well) I couldn’t feel content with just the facts as they were. I must find the touchstone, the connection between my own place in the twenty first century and this time I’m reading about, such as things like music making, vacations, illness, or the weight of travel.
I have found in John deGruchy biography of Eberhard Bethge a third angle to the events Bethge writes about in chapter ten. In Daring, Trusting Spirit (pgs. 28-43) I learned of the significance of the vacation where Dietrich and Eberhard learned of Finkenwalde’s closure. From this new outside look we can see the community formed between these two men that carried them beyond their seminary’s physical closure and provided a linchpin for their continued work. Bonhoeffer needed someone worthy of trust who could keep him grounded and focused. The bond between these men began at Finkenwalde, deepened in the Collective Pastorates, and then continued through the conspiracy and imprisonment.
“The fifth session at Finkenwalde ended on
11 September 1937. The two friends spent the next two months at Marienburger Allee 43 with Bonhoeffer’s parents and took a holiday together during October in southern . This pattern of vacationing together at the conclusion of the Finkenwalde sessions was now firmly established, and it would continue for the next few years in the new context for the seminary, the “collective pastorates” in Koslin and Gross-Schlonwitz.” Germany