Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Dumbfounded and Humbled

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Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. Psalm 36:5-6

“One day, a ten-year-old boy came to see Bonhoeffer. Breaking down and crying, the boy explained that his beloved German shepherd, Mr. Wolf, had just died. The boy sobbed as he told the story, but soon his tears stopped and he asked Bonhoeffer, with deep intensity, “Tell me now, Herr Bonhoeffer, will I see Mr. Wolf again? He is surely in heaven?”

Bonhoeffer explained in a letter to a friend that he was dumbfounded. He didn’t know what to say. Never before had one of his astute professors or gifted fellow students made such an inquiry, a question that Bonhoeffer could see meant so much to this grieving boy.

Bonhoeffer sat with the boy, feeling small next to his important question. Clearly Mr. Wolf had meant so much to the boy. The overly confident protégé, who had always been told he had a brilliant answer for every theological question, now sat humbled by the boy’s love for his dead dog.

Finally, turning to the boy, Bonhoeffer said, “Well, we know you loved Mr. Wolf, and we know that God loves you. And we know that God loves all the animals. So, yes, yes, I think you will indeed see Mr. Wolf in heaven, for I believe that God loses nothing that God loves.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer as recounted by Andrew Root in his 22 August 2017 blog post entiled, “Excerpt: The Grace of Dog” from his book by the same title.

Picture this scene. Bonhoeffer had a boatload of knowledge about lofty things, but he was baffled by the love of this boy for his dead dog. I can relate because I have had dozens of people ask me if Joy St. Clare is with Lord since her passing only one week ago.

The answer to this question is difficult to pinpoint with certainty from Scripture, though texts like the one above note specifically that the Lord preserves both people and animals. What we can be sure of in hard times is the love of God. That’s what we must focus on.

We should all feel small next to the big questions of people who are hurting. Being with them is vital to understanding the bigger issues of life. If we want to be brilliant (and generous), we must do this for those who have lost one they love. Sit with them and remind them of God’s love.