In a poem titled Discipline which he wrote while in prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Dare to do what is just, not what fancy may call for; lose no time with what may be, but boldly grasp what is real. The world of thought is escape; freedom comes only through action. Step out beyond anxious waiting and into the storm of events.”
I’ve been thinking about just how much time we waste pondering on things outside of the time and space that we occupy right now. Bonhoeffer said, “The world of thought is escape.” I do not believe that he was not referring to rational and reasonable thought by which we order our lives. I believe that he was talking about thought that is an escape from our reality.
When we are not satisfied with the present time and place and condition of our existence, it is easy to live in a fantasy world that changes everything. In our minds we can be somewhere we are not, being something that we are not, accomplishing great feats and earning the adulation of people grateful for our existence. Though our daydreaming may give us temporary relief from our present reality, real freedom is found in facing our present reality and acting upon it in faith.
On the flip-side of this coin is the person, not escaping their present reality through fantasy, but spending their time anticipating coming disaster, rehearsing trials and tribulations that in all actuality will probably never occur. These live in fear of people or events that have been inflated without cause in their own mind.
Some of the most concise and focused thoughts that I have ever read come from Bonhoeffer’s prison writing. If ever a man had an excuse to live in fantasy to escape cold and cruel environment of a Nazi prison, Dietrich was one. If ever a man had reason to live under a foreboding cloud of doom and gloom, Dietrich was that man.
“Lose no time with what may be, but boldly grasp what is real.” These sentiments and words are what we find in the scriptures when Christ calls us to live one day at a time (Matthew 6:25-34) that day being, today. Yesterday is behind us with all of its victories and defeats, it cannot be re-lived what is done cannot be undone. Let it rest with Jesus. Tomorrow is not yet ours but standing in it already is our gracious Lord Jesus, knowing that He is there waiting for us to arrive fills us with incredible confidence and hope. As far as today goes, He has promise sufficiency of grace to see us through every detail of today as long as it is still called today.
Oswald Chambers talks about the people live continually with the thought, “If I were just somewhere else, I could…” To which he responds, “God cannot use you where you are not.”
God wants both of your feet firmly planted in the present, not daydreaming of a fantasy world, not living in fear of gloom and doom. He calls you and me to place our trust in Him and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. In that He promises to order our lives according to His own gracious will.
If Bonhoeffer could find that grace and that peace inside of cold and cruel prison, is not God’s grace able to keep us in place of relative safety? Bonhoeffer wrestled with this paradox in his poem Who Am I?
He wrote, “Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country house. Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warders freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command. Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.”