Yesterday, Jan and I went to see the movie Valkyrie. The movie was based on the true story surrounding the events of a failed assassination attempt on Hitler at the infamous Wolf’s Liar. It was good cinema and Tom Cruise did a great job acting out his character.
Many of the scenes in the movie took place in Berlin – a city Jan and I lived in for four years in the late 1990’s. We love the German people. We were treated with love and respect when we lived as guests in this great nation. Jan and I both felt that if we were Germans we might feel good about this portrayal by Tom Cruise of a real patriot who tried to end Hitler’s tyrannical rule.
When we lived in Berlin we did what we have always done in a new culture ‚Äì we spent time being historians of the people and the place. This meant getting out and walking the streets and listening to the culture. Being a historian of a culture means looking deeper than what appears only in the tourist brochures. You have to walk the streets and get off the beaten paths to see the real history of a nation.
Berlin is a city of great contrasts. When Germany was divided West Berlin was like an island of color amidst a sea of gray that East Berlin, and the whole Communist model, had provided. When East Germany dissolved, it was like someone pulled the plug on a lake. The island of beauty that emerged was West Berlin surrounded by the drabness of the East. In fact, not far from our home on Am Pfarracker Strasse, in the south of Berlin, was where the old Berlin Wall existed. I used to ride my bicycle to that location.
At the time we lived in Berlin, almost ten years after the Wall came down, you could still see the difference between East and West. The homes in what was old East Berlin were drab grays and greens. The homes in West Berlin expressed themselves in multiple colors. Life was in seen in color. While some of the homes in the old East were transitioning to the new colors of freedom, it was not hard to see the lingering effects of a harder time.
Some days I would take the U-Bahn into downtown Berlin and then I would have to get out and walk to my final destination. It would be on these walks that I would come across evidence of World War II. Down some side street bullet holes were still visible on the stone walls of an old building that survived the Allied bombing. Turn another corner and there would be the impact point of a mortar round that fanned out it’s wound track on the rock wall. On another wall would be the pock marks of machine-gun rounds that resembled someone holding down the period punctuation key on a computer key board until it ran off the page.
Whenever I saw those old bullet marks and shrapnel scars I wondered who stood in the way of their deadly effects. Was it a young G.I or a German soldier like Tom Cruises’ character in the movie? Many times I paused, then reached out and put my hand into the wounds on the scared wall. Those scars spoke to me. At times I would get introspective. Other times I would get emotional. I loved Berlin for a lot of reasons. I think what I love most about Berlin is what it taught me spiritually.
I learned that the wounds in our past give us perspective in the present. Wars end, but the scars remain.
Today, if you had the privilege of walking throughout Berlin you would see one of the most beautiful and unique examples of reconstruction on the planet. The old East Berlin looks nothing like it did before. Some of the most beautiful modern architecture in all of Berlin, East or West, exists in the East. As one walks among these masterpieces of an architects creativity it doesn’t take long before you come to an old section of the city where you still see the bullet holes in a wall. The scars of the past meet the new life of the present as an advertisement of hope.
The perspective a city like Berlin brings is the reality that no matter how difficult the war is today that someday peace and rebuilding will have the ultimate victory. That is the nature of God’s Kingdom – expanding wholeness. The scars of our past are used by God to help us press into a future of hope, wholeness and reconstruction that He has promised for each person who calls Him Lord. I learned that walls don’t last forever.
I mentioned that I used to ride my bike from our home in Berlin to where the Berlin Wall used to exist. When the Wall originally went up, even as a young boy watching the black and white national news broadcast on our old RCA television set, I hated what the Wall signified. Families were separated. Lives were lost trying to escape to freedom. The long and vacant gaze of hopelessness in the eyes of the East Berliners coming over my family TV set in 1960’s American Suburbia did something deep within me. Little did I know that someday I would live in the very city that sparked such emotion in me.
The Berlin Wall was a symbol of separation for a time. What is interesting is that today if you were to ride your bike from my old home in Berlin to where the Wall existed you would find a bike path. The Wall is gone. Where the Wall, along with it’s barbed wire, cement walls and machine gun turrets once existed, today you find people peacefully riding their bicycles, moms together strolling with their kids in tow and old couples sitting on park benches in peace. I learned that there is a plan for the future in the Master Architects mind.
In the late 1990’s, when we lived in Berlin, I followed the news about the reconstruction plans for East Berlin. What intrigued me most were the bios of the architects seeking contracts to design some of the magnificent structures that stand in Berlin today.
It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that some of these architects had grown up in a divided city and dreamed that one day they would change the visual landscape of the city with their creativity. Some of them were school children in East Berlin when the Wall was constructed. They grew up living behind a Wall of separation. They were told to paint their houses in the drab colors of the collective mindset. Ahead of these architects was an appointment in the future that would bring the release of their God-given gifts to imagine what things could really look like in a place of freedom.
As I write this, many people feel walled in economically, socially and relationally. What used to be vibrant and alive is now clothed in the drab colors of fear. The walls of life are pock-marked by the enemy’s gunfire. Some might ask, “Where is the hope?” Our hope is in the Architect Who has a plan for our reconstruction. With God our lives are like Berlin. Berlin went through WWII, communism and separation, but now the city is beautiful. In the natural realm the architects of structure and culture went to work rebuilding a city and eventually a nation. God, the Master Architect, has the same things planned for our lives but on a far grander scale. He is the Rebuilder of broken things.
I learned that God has a bigger purpose for our lives. God’s purpose for our lives is to bring us to a place where we can put our hands into the wounds of our past and begin to praise Him for the good He wants to do in our future. Touching the wounds, and believing that He is good and has good things planned for us, becomes the prophetic act of belief that changes how we see life today and how we will live our lives in the future.
God’s purpose for our lives is to help us see that He is bringing down the walls that separate us from others. His purpose is transformational. The place where a wall once existed will become a place life and freedom.
God’s purpose for our lives is to bring us into alignment with His Kingdom plan. He is the Master Architect and has a plan for each of us that was birthed in timeless eternity – a place without war, fear and separation.