Healing Our History

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. – Psalm 34:18

It is human nature to resist pain. We repress negative emotions. We avoid conflict. We medicate discomfort. This is our natural inclination, which is why I found the German attitude toward the Holocaust so extraordinary. Rather than avoid this incredibly painful chapter of their national history, the German people embrace it. They intentionally foster a corporate consciousness around the Holocaust, generation to generation.

The brass plaques in the picture above bear the names of Jews who were forced from their homes and sent to concentration camps. They can be found in the cobbled streets in front of houses throughout the country. They are placed there not just to memorialize the dead, but to remind the living of their own history.

The Berlin Holocaust Memorial (shown in the second picture) is one of many memorials throughout the country that school children are required to visit. This particular memorial is built in such a way that when you walk through it you disappear among the memorial stones, just as millions of Jews disappeared during the Holocaust.

It would be so easy for the German people to dismiss the Holocaust as another generation’s sin, but somehow they have discovered the truth that our broken history can only be healed when we fully embrace it. That is true both individually and corporately.

As we toured Germany I wondered about the ways in which I (and we) have resisted our own nation’s history as another generation’s sin. Our treatment of Native Americans as aliens in their own land, our enslavement of blacks, our internment of Japanese Americans – these and many other painful chapters in our national history may never heal until we stop blaming them on another generation, or resisting them. Only what is embraced and surrendered to God heals.

What does that mean for you? For us?

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Paula Becker

    Love requires acceptance and compassion. This is only possible when we turn toward what we deny, hide or reject. Great message, Jeff. Thanks

  • Ken Walter

    Perhaps it is worth recognizing this is, as it comes to me now, the reason God created us with a mind that remembers emotionally and spiritually as well as the physical ways. Thank you for the blog. I will look at what I remember from pain with new eyes from now on.

  • Jeff Christensen

    What a great insight, Jeff. My process of grieving the death of our son Drew stalled when I pushed it aside to devote more time to work and family. I was challenged recently to treat grieving like a project at work – to become mindful and intentional about embracing feelings and memories without judgment. This practice is helping me to grow and heal personally, and I recognize that it can help us grow and heal as a community.

  • Paul Gilje

    Thanks very much, Jeff. So appropriate and so wonderful to sense the complete change in Germany.