A Yes for earth and its future

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45), on marrying in the time of war as a sign of Yes for earth and its future (he wrote this letter in the midst of World War II):

“Over the years I have written many a letter for the wedding of one of the brothers and preached many a wedding sermon. The chief characteristic of such occasions essentially rested in the fact that, in the face of the “last” times (I do not mean this to sound quite so apocalyptic), someone dares to take a step of such affirmation of the earth and its future. It was then always very clear to me that a person could take this step as a Christian truly only from within a very strong faith and and on the basis of grace. For here in the midst of the final destruction of all things, one desires to build; in the midst of a life lived from hour to hour and from day to day, one desires a future; in the midst of being driven out from the earth, one desires a bit of space; in the midst of widespread misery, one desires some happiness. And the overwhelming thing is that God says Yes to this strange longing, that here God consents to our will, whereas it is usually meant to be just the opposite.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Conspiracy and Imprisonment, 1940–1945 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 16), p. 220-221)

Writing to his fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, from the prison (eventually Bonhoeffer would be executed by hanging and they wouldn’t be married):

“Our marriage must be a Yes to God’s earth. It must strengthen our resolve to do and accomplish something on earth. I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer, Love Letters from Cell 92: The Correspondence Between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer, 1943-45, p. 63-64)

Since we are in this topic, in a sermon which was written for his best friend’s, Eberhard Bethge, and his niece’s, Renate Schleicher, wedding, Bonhoeffer memorably wrote:

“It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 43)

3 thoughts on “A Yes for earth and its future

  1. pedro

    Yes and ‘amen’ to that.

    If only everyone treats marriage as seriously as,

    “For here in the midst of the final destruction of all things, one desires to build; in the midst of a life lived from hour to hour and from day to day, one desires a future; in the midst of being driven out from the earth, one desires a bit of space; in the midst of widespread misery, one desires some happiness. And the overwhelming thing is that God says Yes to this strange longing, that here God consents to our will, whereas it is usually meant to be just the opposite.”

    Marriage CAN be an “affirmation to the earth and its future”, it seldom is.

    May you hold this attitude as you consider marriage, and stick with it ever after, Sept.

    Reply
    1. septian Post author

      It just occurred to me that perhaps the metaphor of “settling down” for marriage does not entirely do justice for it, since, if we looked it from Bonhoeffer’s view, it is the otherwise, that in marriage we are entering into a realm of unknown which is full of new possibilities. It settles and unsettles at the same time. That’s why it is, in some sense, an act of courage and faith. Or, to put it in mathematical terms, we can do more things with two variables rather than one.

      Reply

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