Sep2SatSeptember 2, 2017
As readers of my book may remember, since the days I was a guy in his twenties who longed to have a church and a pulpit “of my own,” I have kept a select group of godly pastors, preachers and writers of the past, as my DEAD MEN, that is, my self-chosen role models. In the book, I referred to some of them as MY FINAL FIVE.
This week, Deb and I and (most of) our grown children are enjoying being together in a cottage we’ve rented on Ipperwash Beach. As I packed for the week last Saturday, I included a copy of “Letters and Papers from Prison” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I read quite a bit about in 2012. This was the book I bought that year but didn’t read thoroughly, or even all the way through. This week, I began it again. And I am spellbound.
In one paper written in 1943, a full ten years after Hitler had become the absolute dictator of Germany, Bonhoeffer wrote these words:
“As time is the most valuable thing that we have, because it is the most irrevocable, the thought of any time lost troubles us whenever we look back. Time lost is time in which we have failed to live a full human life, gain experience, learn, create, enjoy, and suffer; it is time that has not been filled up, but left empty. These last years have certainly not been like that. Our losses have been great and immeasurable, but time has not been lost.”
Wow! In “Glory in the Face,” I described myself as a man experiencing great losses. I wrote:
“Vocationally, I have said a quiet good-bye to pastoring a church. Personally, I have bidden a fond farewell to long-distance running, solo canoe trips, and many other things that I loved for a long time, but now have lost. Along with these losses have come happy new opportunities. For a while, I have the time—and for now, at least, the energy to write ...”
And now, almost five years since I was enrolled in the Cancer Club, Mr. Bonhoeffer, just 37 years old, has taught me to rethink these “losses” of mine. He has taught me that these last few years of losses were not time lost, because they were years of gaining experience, learning, creating, enjoying and suffering; all aspects of “a full human life.”
“Through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” [Hebrews 11:4].