This week, people remember with gratitude the fall of the Berlin Wall. For decades it symbolized the cold war, a fixed, rock-hard barrier dividing a nation not according to its cultural borders (Germany has historically had a diversity of cultures) but according to the lines drawn by the powers that had occupied Germany after World War II. The wall was intended to hinder East Germans from fleeing to the West.
It was built in 1961 and was so solid that very few people expected to see it come down in their lifetime.
In the 1980s, I lived in Hamburg and worked once a month in West Berlin as an anchorwoman for public radio. I had to allow extra hours for my travel: Leave Hamburg, wait at the border, get my transit visa, travel carefully through East Germany, wait again at the border to West Berlin, travel through the border, and breathe a sigh of relief in West Berlin.
I felt uneasiness and anxiety over these trips. But I will never forget my first whole day I spent in "the East." Despite the hassle of getting there, my visit was wonderful. And it was a success, because I let my previous experiences with prayer guide my way experiences that had shown me that there is indeed a good God, permeating all space, invisible but not untouchable, a God that is indivisible and undivided.
People everywhere respond to the goodness of God, and a friend assured me that even keeping the Golden Rule would be my sufficient protection.
I had a splendid day chatting with people of all walks of life. I didn't hesitate to enter an East German pub, and I took a suburban train to visit an East German publishing house in the far outskirts of East Berlin. I met wonderful people there, too people whose backgrounds and lifestyles were different from mine and we discussed classical music and opera over a cup of steaming hot coffee.
You might remember 1989, the year when Mikhail Gorbachev was general secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, and Erich Honecker was the leader of East Germany. Every Monday, for months, the streets had been filled with people carrying candles and shouting, "We are the people." You might remember Gorbachev's famous words one month before the wall fell. Upon seeing the democratic pressure rising considerably, he assessed the situation with this statement: "Life punishes him who comes too late."
As much as the wall had been built on fear and doubt, the opening of the wall on Nov. 9, 1989, was based on the principles of goodness and freedom the will of God.
The wall's falling was, and is, a sign of hope, strength, and peace for many more challenges to come. It's a sign of hope for better understanding among Muslims, Jews, and Christians; among people in the Middle East; between nations and peoples worldwide. It's a lesson to always expect the unexpected and to never give up.
It's also a lesson to continue to pray and to never doubt that the Bible is right when it tells us: "The Lord looseth the prisoners: the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous" (Ps. 146:7, 8).
The East Germans, who claimed this as their true heritage and who went fearlessly onto the streets not knowing whether a Russian or an East German tank would cross their path, didn't doubt. And we don't need to doubt either. Our progress can be built on the freedom and peace of God, the Lord, which "looseth the prisoners" from whatever chains bind them.
Jesus' prayer for all his brethren:
Father, that they may be one,
Echoes down through all the ages,
Nor prayed he for these alone
But for all, that through all time
God's will be done....
Day by day the understanding
Of our oneness shall increase,
Till among all men and nations
Warfare shall forever cease,
So God's children all shall dwell
in joy and peace.
Christian Science Hymnal