For the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, StampDawg posted a link to a slide show commemorating the momentous event. Almost three weeks later, I can’t get past one of the pictures I saw (pictured below).
By way of simple explanation, this is a picture of West Germans staring over the wall into a lifeless East Germany. The succession of trees, empty buildings, and muted lampposts points the eye from left to right towards an unseen vanishing point of urban desolation. The West Germans in the foreground are well dressed, yet faceless. It could be you looking over the wall. The West Germans do not stare over the wall with intrigue, as you might when passing a car accident. Nor do they look away from the tragedy in suppressive denial or idealistic dreams of overcoming their plight (and it is certainly their plight). They instead look directly at the loss this wall has created. They have been gazing so long that they lean forward against the wall for support.
This, for me, is the heart of Christianity. Christianity is not about the denial of our loss, sin and inescapable death. We do not try to act as if nothing happened or put on a happy face (no matter what Glee may think it says). Nor do we try to remedy our plight. Such an attempt would prove to be ineffective at best. We cannot create the luck that comes our way and are powerless to keep ourselves from waking up on the wrong side of the bed.
Instead, Christians must see themselves and their lives for what they really are. We must stare at our loss with an unflinching honesty of both our complicity and powerlessness. We must “say what a thing is” (Luther) by assimilating the negativity. To be a Christian is to stare at the East Germany of our hearts. Such an honesty releases us from the grip of ourselves so that we may fall into the hands of a loving, gracious God who gives an abundance of life.