My 5th-grade daughter is working on a presentation about Germany for school, which I’m loving because I lived there during high school and have a bunch of memorabilia she’ll be able to use—including a six-inch chunk of the Berlin Wall. The more I help Megan, the more I realize how much has changed in the past thirty years.
After World War II, rule of Germany was divided by the four occupying nations: the US, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The nation was formally split into two in 1949. Forty-one years later—on October 3, 1990—there were massive celebrations as Germany was once again united under one flag. Fireworks flew over the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin; borders that had been closed for a generation were suddenly opened; East German-made “Trabant” cars puttered across those borders and onto the West German autobahns (where they got in the way of the zipping Mercedes and BMWs!).
But there were fears, too. A unified Germany would be the largest economy and second most populous nation in Europe (behind Russia). The differences between East and West were stark and, to some, seemed insurmountable. As one example, more than 90% of households in the West owned a car in 1990, compared with less than 60% in the East. Today, nearly a quarter century later, many differences still remain, especially economically.
The reunification of Germany provides a fitting metaphor for the transformation God works in our lives. There are events that take place to pave the way; in Germany, it was the “Peaceful Revolution,” the removal of the Hungarian border fence, and a crack in the Berlin Wall; in our lives, it may be a conversation with a friend, a crisis, or a class we take that raises new questions. Then there is an event, the official day of unification for Germany or the moment we “say yes” to Jesus and invite him to lead our lives. Finally, there is the day-by-day process of transformation that God works as we submit our wills to his, obey his commands, and seek to know him more and more deeply. It is a process that never truly ends.
While there have been a few momentous occasions in Germany over the past twenty-three years, most of the changes have been small, incremental steps. For someone who has “said yes” to Jesus, one of the next small, incremental steps on the journey of transformation is to be baptized. Like the celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate on October 3, baptism is a sign, symbol, and celebration of what has already happened in the life of a Christian.
Let the party begin!