Over the last couple of months I did something that literally gave me nightmares. I read Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas while listening to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer.
If you’re not familiar with Bonhoeffer, it’s an award-winning book about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It tells the story of this courageous resistance leader in Nazi Germany, who also happen to be a brilliant theologian, compassionate pastor, and committed follower of Jesus Christ. The story is inspiring and challenging.
On the other hand, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich‘s considered one of the best histories of Hitler and Nazi Germany. It’s a fascinating story, filled with details, about one of the darkest times in the history of the world. Even after listening to the book, it’s still impossible for me to grasp the true evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis.
But it’s where these two books intersect that I had my nightmares. I would dream on the nights after a day of listening to and reading both books. And my dreams were always the same – I stood by while people were mercilessly being killed and, by doing so, I shared the guilt of the murderers.
So I’ve become convinced that the source of these nightmares lay in the challenge of Bonhoeffer’s life, and in my doubts about my own convictions and courage – would I see evil around me and stand up to it, even it meant death? It’s a question that’s haunted my dreams, and my waking hours, over the past few months. And every morning I found myself praying “Lord, if I ever need it, please give me just an ounce of Bonhoeffer’s courage, so I too can stand against evil in this world.”