Introductory Note:

“When Christ calls a man to follow, he beckons him to come and die.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In a paradox so raw that it sears the heart, Bonhoeffer, while in a Nazi prison, came to delineate what Richard Foster calls “four great dimensions of a spiritual life that lead to freedom in all its facets.” With Richard Foster, we, too, encourage you today to consider these ideas anew.

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Streams of Living Water

On the day Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer heard that the 20 July 1944 attempt to assas­si­nate Hitler had failed — the day he knew that his own fate and the fate of his friends was sealed — he wrote an account of his life in a poem enti­tled Sta­tions on the Road to Free­dom.” Brood­ing in his Tegel prison cell, he set forth the four great dimen­sions of a spir­i­tu­al life that lead to free­dom in all its facets — free­dom from ingrained habits of sin, free­dom from cow­er­ing inac­tion and irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty, free­dom from fear of a mon­strous­ly demon­ic and immense­ly pow­er­ful nation-state. Lis­ten care­ful­ly and prayer­ful­ly to his words, for they speak of the holi­ness of life:


If you set out to seek free­dom, then learn above all dis­ci­pline of soul and sens­es, so that your pas­sions and your limbs might not lead you con­fus­ed­ly hith­er and yon. Chaste be your spir­it and body, sub­ject to your own will, and obe­di­ent to seek out the goal that they have been giv­en. No one dis­cov­ers the secret of free­dom but through self-control.


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, car­ried only by God’s com­mand and by your own faith; then will free­dom exul­tant­ly cry out to wel­come your spirit.


Won­drous trans­for­ma­tion! Your strong and active hands are tied now. Pow­er­less, alone, you see the end of your action. Still, you take a deep breath and lay your strug­gle for jus­tice, qui­et­ly and in faith, into a might­i­er hand. Just for one bliss­ful moment, you tast­ed the sweet­ness of free­dom, then you hand­ed it over to God, that he might make it whole.


Come now, high­est moment on the road to free­dom eter­nal, Death, put down the pon­der­ous chains and demol­ish the walls of our mor­tal bod­ies, the walls of our blind­ed souls, that we might final­ly see what mor­tals have kept us from see­ing. Free­dom, how long we have sought you through dis­ci­pline, action, and suf­fer­ing. Dying, now we behold your face in the coun­te­nance of God.

Excerpt­ed from Streams of Liv­ing Water by Richard J. Fos­ter, pub­lished 2001 by Harper­One. Copy­right Richard J. Fos­ter. Used with permission.

1. Trans­lat­ed from Wider­stand und Erge­bung, pp. 403 – 4, as cit­ed in A Tes­ta­ment to Free­dom: The Essen­tial Writ­ings of Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer, ed. Gef­frey B. Kel­ly and F. Bur­ton Nel­son (San Fran­cis­co: Harper­San­Fran­cis­co, 1990), pp. 542 – 43.

Text First Published December 2001

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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