Since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated by the history of Berlin…from the rise and demise of a Furher to the rise and demise of a Wall: I longed to see it with my own eyes–beyond historical accounts in my books to a personal witness of what was. I can’t think of a better way for me to celebrate the 4th of July as an American — here in Poland ministering the gospel, while reflecting on what I witnessed in Berlin a few days ago.
As our tour guide from Newcastle said, “We were walking on layers of history.” I saw Checkpoint Charlie in the middle of a crazy busy boulevard now saddled by a McDonalds on the West and a Starbucks on the East. I stood there on the East side and stared at the ominously famous checkpoint with my fellow tour participants trying to hear the echoes of escapists–those longing for freedom and family for 28 years. We stood on Hitler’s 30 room bunker where he made his delirious last decisions and ended his life. Then we walked to the Holocaust Memorial or to be exact the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe.” This labyrinth of 2000 uneven concrete blocks brings unanswered questions to the surface — we try to sort and understand, but the answers never equal the reality. After seeing many other amazing sites, (such as the square across from the University where the book burnings started, as featured in The Book Thief) we neared the end of our tour — the Brandenburg Gate. Walking up from behind it on the West side I tried to hear the reverberations of President Reagan’s June 12, 1987 speech. Here, the exact spot where he stood behind bullet proof panels in case of a surprise East Berlin sniper, he peacefully declared a challenge, “…come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”“As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: “This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.” Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.” – President Reagan’s speech, June 1987, Berlin
I saw the remains of the wall, nearly 25 years later. I touched it with my own hands (well, parts of it is, because free people have stuck chewing gum to it, really people?). As we celebrate freedom today, I think about the layer of history we walk on. It is our turn, our paths, our layer to build for another generation to come. Are we making choices that honor the sacrifices others laid for freedom? Or, will we waste it and forfeit our layer, pacified by political correctness, and retreating into our comfort and pleasures–sticking our “chewing gum” on the memorials of our fathers.
I believe Reagan’s famous words echoed even greater words spoken many history layers before. Ephesians 2:14, “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” While celebrating our physical freedom today, may our SPIRITUAL freedom reign even larger. Where when we see “walls” of offense or doubt or disease begin to build over night — we are awake and armed to say, “Excuse me, No! Mr., we are tearing down this wall!” It will not separate me, limit me and hold me in!
Tonight I witnessed 8 people receive Jesus in Poland. That might not seem huge to you, but in Poland there are less Christians than in Saudi Arabia at 0.4% (Operation World). I could sense heaven’s fireworks for the walls coming down! Let our gifts of freedom be more than McDonalds and Starbucks; or the ability to watch and dress like Hollywood. I pray as we walk our layer of history that we truly bring healing to nations, and bravely live beyond ourselves for “liberty and justice for all.” The walls cannot withstand faith…they cannot withstand true freedom.