From Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Tegel prison, to his fiance Maria von Wedemeyer.
12 August 1943
My Dearest Maria,
After sending off my last letter to you, I was suddenly afraid that my Tegel address on the envelope might make trouble for you in the village. Although I can almost hear you laugh out loud at the idea – and I look forward to hearing you laugh – I don’t think such matters should be treated lightly. It really isn’t necessary for you to be subjected to village gossip about your fiance. And so, to preclude any such possibility, I didn’t write to you again but asked my parents how you felt about it. Today, however, your dear letter arrived, and I simply can’t remain silent. But please, next time tell me how I’m to write to you in the future. I won’t write again until I hear.
So now to your letter. You can’t possibly imagine what it means to me, in my present predicament, to have you. I’m under God’s special guidance here, I feel sure. To me, the way in which we found each other such a short time before my arrest seems a definite indication of that. Once again, things went “hominum confusione et dei providentia (according to man’s confusion and God’s providence).” It amazes me anew every day how little I have deserved such happiness, just as it daily and deeply moves me that God should have put you through such an ordeal this past year, and that he so clearly meant me to bring you grief and sorrow, so soon after we got to know each other, to endow our love with the proper foundation and the proper strength. Moreover, when I consider the state of the world, the total obscurity enshrouding our personal destiny, and my present imprisonment, our union – if it wasn’t frivolity, which it certainly wasn’t – can only be a token of God’s grace and goodness, which summon us to believe in him. We would have to be blind not to see that. When Jeremiah said, in his people’s hour of direst need, that “houses and fields [and vineyards] shall again be bought in this land,” it was a token of confidence in the future. That requires faith, and may God grant it to us daily. I don’t mean the faith that flees the world, but the faith that endures in the world and loves and remains true to that world in spite of all the hardships it brings us. 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.
I’m thoroughly in favor of your pastor marrying us, but the way. In these matters I think would should always to the most obvious thing. That’s more important than any personal preference.
So now you’ve got the house full of people. How much I would have liked to see you running the household at this time! Your mother wrote me such a nice letter again, telling me all kinds of things. Please thank her very much indeed; I know what a sacrifice if must be for her to find the time to write to me. But there’s no greater pleasure in this place than getting letters from people. One rereads them innumerable times so as to share in their lives.
It’s a cloudy, rainy day outside, a perfect accompaniment to my fruitless wait for the situation to resolve itself. But let us never forget how much we have to be thankful for, and how much good we experience even so; I have only to think of you, and all the little shadows on my soul disperse. So let us continue to be really patient for the rest of the time we’re compelled to wait, and not waste a single hour grousing and grumbling. From God’s standpoint, this time of waiting is immensely valuable; much depends on how we endure it and on whether we need not feel ashamed, later on, of having failed to recognize these months of testing as a gift from God. I’m convinced that our love and our marriage will derive eternal strength from this time of trial. So let us wait, with and for each other, until our wedding day dawns. It won’t be much longer, my dear, dear Maria!
Please give my love to your mother and your brothers and sisters. Is it Lutgert who was killed in action? You must all be very sad. Please remember me to his wife. Good-bye, dearest Maria, and may God preserve us and our families.
Your Dietrich, who looks forward from one letter to the next, embraces you!