Visitors to Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, note a marker in front of Presser Hall.  There is a dove–the symbol of peace, flying against a field of blue.  Carved into the rock is this message “For all that has been–Thanks! To all that shall be–Yes!”  The marker was the gift from a family who both gave thanks for both the past and said “Yes!” to the future at this wonderful, small Lutheran college on the Great Plains.  The marker was dedicated on March 21, 2005, by Jan Eliasson, the Sweden’s Ambassador to the United States who had just been elected President of the United Nations General Assembly.

The quote is from Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish diplomat who became Secretary General of the United Nations sixty years ago this year, and is found in his spiritual diary known to the English world as “Markings”.

Hammarskjöld quietly began to record his spiritual journey when he was twenty years old, just after serving as a steward at the 1925 conference on Life and Work, organized by Archbishop Nathan Söderblom, and attended by Protestant and Orthodox communions. He wrote his last entry shortly before his peace-keeping mission to the Congo where he was killed in a mysterious plane crash September 18, 1961.  The diary was found in his New York apartment–not even his closest friends knew that it existed.  A note in the diary was addressed to the Swedish Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Leif Belfrage.  Hammarskjöld wrote “Dear Leif, Perhaps you may remember I once told you that, in spite of everything, I kept a diary which I wanted you to take charge of someday.  Here it is. ….If you find them worth publishing, you have my permission to do so–as a sort of white book concerning my negotiations with myself–and with God.”

Fifty years ago the Swedish publishing house, Albert Bonniers Förlag, introduced Hammarskjöld’s journal to the Swedish speaking world with the title Vägmärken.  A year later,  Alfred Knopf published the English translation under the title Markings. I purchased my copy in 1971 after a tour of the United Nations, and I’ve kept the book close ever since.  These passages have meant much to me over the years:

Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step: only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road.

Give me a pure heart–that I may see Thee,,

A humble heart–that I may hear Thee,

A heart of love–that I may serve Thee,

A heart of faith–that I may abide in Thee.

For all that has been–Thanks!

For all that shall be–Yes!

Composer Eskil Hemberg has set many of Hammarskjöld’s texts to music.