Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"My soul is crushed by longing for your demands at all times"

This is a quote taken from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Meditations on Psalm 119.” It was written 1939-40-after the time of the closure of Finkenwalde and during the time of the “illegal underground pastorates.” [1]

 This section is from verse 20, “My soul is crushed by longing for your demands at all times.”

“Because the yearning for God’s word is not born of the soul, it does not pass like trembling or a frenzy of the soul in an hour or day. It cannot be compared to the longing of the soul for a beloved person, because this only lasts for a while, whereas the longing for God, which crushes the soul, is “at all times.” It cannot be otherwise, when it comes over us from God himself. It must be everlasting. It has nothing to do with a sudden surge, with a one-time dedication of the heart to God’s word. The “at all times” is decisive. The longing for God’s word is distinguished, not by the heat of piety, but by the perseverance to the Word until the end.

This is precisely why it would be wrong to mistake religious euphoria for this longing. On the contrary, what is being spoken of here is precisely the experience of being crushed under the burden of this longing. The longing is less likely to consist in the bliss of religious exuberance than in seeing the triumph of the presumed rights of human beings, yet hoping for God’s right and relying on it; of living in a foreign land and yet being unable to forget the homeland; in misery, need, and guilt of being unable to come free of God; of having to seek God where intellect and experience reject him; of having to call to God when all strength sinks in death; of experiencing God’s word as the power over our life that does not release us, even for a moment. Thus, the “at all times” is not an exaggeration but can be understood as a reality.” (Italics mine) [2]

[1]Bonhoeffer, “Meditations on Psalm 119,” in,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Theological Education Underground 1937-1940, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 15, Editor Dirk Schulz, (Minneapolis Fortress Press 2012).
[2] Ibid, 525.

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