The Germans refer to it as Stunde Null, or “Zero Hour.” It was the moment when Germany had lost World War II, her cities bombed to rubble, the NAZI apparatus destroyed. It was as if the prone body of a nation died, flat lined for a moment. Then, after a terrifying moment when everyone watched, breath bated, a pulse began again.
It’s interesting to note the change in Germany in 1945: Twice in twenty years Germany had inflicted war on the rest of the continent. Many of the Allies contemplated ways to rid the nation of its warrior-like character, to “deNAZIify” it. Many fretted that Germans seemed not to be sufficiently remorseful for what had occurred. “We were victims too,” they claimed. How would they change if they did not think they had done anything wrong?
I don’t know how all of that worked out, but it is apparent that something right happened. Germany (at least West Germany) has been a peaceful, democratic, prosperous nation for over seventy years. From the smoldering ruins of a defeated nation we can now observe a stunning economic success story.
I think people need a “zero hour,” too. It is hard for us to admit fault or take responsibility for our actions. Setbacks and failures, though they sting, do not break our pride down. Sometimes we need to be thrown to our knees in absolute failure. That‘s the human way, it seems. We learn our lessons only in the hardest of ways. It could be said that we die on the inside. The pulse stops, and then begins once again to beat.
The Bible recognizes this zero hour moment, this emotional and spiritual reboot. When Jesus speaks of a new birth (John 3:3,4), he is referring to a death, making this rebirth necessary. Paul suggests that we are “buried” with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3,4). One buries only the one whose pulse has stopped. Indeed, he tells us, we are “crucified” with Christ (Galatians 2:20).
Extraordinary recoveries follow only after extraordinary failures, when we’re on our knees, when the pulse of pride and pretext is stilled. Zero hour. Only then can the heart beat anew, in time with the heart of Christ.