Advent Reflection: Digging Trenches and Building Walls

I originally wrote this as a guest post for The House Studio. It was run Christmas day, 2010, but after renovating their website, it has since been removed with the rest of their blog. I have decided to run it on my blog this year.

May you have a blessed Christmas week.


Working as an English teacher in South Korea, I live 2 hours south of one of the most hostile places on earth.  This tiny peninsula is riddled with conflict and grief, but in the middle of all this pain and hidden within the rumors of war you will find a crack. The world knows this 160 mile wide and 2.5 mile deep crack as the Demilitarized Zone. The Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is the place where two opposing worldviews collided.

 The pain of conflict and war created a fissure, and in this fissure, you can find peace on earth. Scientists say it is a one of a kind Eco-system that, because human presence has been non-existent for more than 50 years, has flourished into something that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

This happens so often in our lives. Relationships are so often times complicated because the two people who are participants in this relationship are unable to see past their own world view.  The are unable to meet the other person in the middle. This conflict, if not dealt with properly, can divide friends and families. It can end relationships that had been developing for thousands of years. When their worldview is challenged, people dig in, set their terms and draw their lines. They lay verbal landmines as a deterrent against the other getting too close, and there we wait.

We set our own personal 38th parallel, and make our alliances. We bicker over twitter and using Facebook status updates. We don’t address the issue that we are afraid of letting ourselves change or letting ourselves get hurt. Instead, we discredit others and dig in deeper.

Christmas is this week, and the DMZ has me thinking of the situation outside of my door, and inside of my heart. Christ was born in the midst of infanticide, and was born a Jew under the rule of the most ruthless of governments. The Jews and the Romans had a conflicting worldview. They had drawn their lines, and they had dug in for the long haul.


In the middle of that fissure, though, you find Jesus. He was born a quiet night and grew up in anonymity. He didn’t make many heads turn until the final three years of his life. Beauty was silently at work in the cracks of colliding societies.

Christ has a habit of doing that. We don’t realize what is happening in that quiet part of us until we tear down the walls we have built up and once again allow for our hearts to trust others again. It is only then that we see that beauty has taken hold of that separated space, and through conflict, learned humbleness, and surrender we became more beautiful that we could have been otherwise. Conflict damages, but it also creates something new; something that the world needs. Conflict creates story, and story creates hope, and that hope gives us reason to trust again.

So as we watch the news, may we not see the hate and anger, but the eventual reconciliation between families and friends. More importantly, when we see or hear about Korea, may we reflect on our own lives to find the walls we have created in order to keep others out, and may we tear down those walls in hope and expectation of something beautiful hidden behind them.


2 thoughts on “Advent Reflection: Digging Trenches and Building Walls

  1. Michael, Thanks for the blog. No one knows any better than I about “walls”.
    Walls are built sometimes out of various materials,reflected in the hatred,bitterness,isolation, and lack of compassion, demonstrated in and through people betraying within themselves the very heart of the Gospel.The only thing in the world that is capable of destroying these Walls” is the love of Christ.I wish we could forget everything else.
    Your Uncle,

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Uncle Jim. Like you, I wish we could forget it all, too. Maybe someday forgiveness and love will take a deeper hold on people. I trust all is well down south? Did you have a good Christmas?

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