There was a time when I assumed separation was the way of the world. Our side, their side: this division was thought to be a kind of balance.
On a summer evening in 1981, my wife and I were returning from Berlin on a train bound for Hamburg, Germany. The train moved at half speed through the countryside of what was then the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also called East Germany.
In Berlin, the wall, the wire, the blocked streets, checkpoints – these reinforced the status quo. If I caught a glimpse of someone on the other side, our eyes never met. Even as we toured East Berlin's fabulous museums on a one-day visa, the differences seemed too great or the prohibitions seemed too strong to make an acquaintance.
In the countryside of East Germany, however, the train moved through towns and passed farms, crossing roads and rivers, and everything appeared normal. For a better view, I rode standing in the corridor of the car, gazing out the window.
Suddenly I came face to face with a young East German couple. They stood on a footbridge in each other's arms, watching the trains go by. Our eye contact was brief, but it burned a hole in my assumptions.
I returned to the seat in our compartment. My wife asked, "Why so glum?" I couldn't articulate what I felt. Still a neophyte student of the history leading to the division of Germany, I blamed politics for the impossibility of ever meeting that German couple on a normal basis.
Five years later, I hadn't forgotten that moment on the train, but in the meantime I'd learned a lot about my relationship with God.
By studying Christian Science and praying for myself and for the world, I learned clearly that God's love for man knows no boundaries. What God loves, I can love. Is God the only power? Yes! Then there can be no power that separates.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "My weary hope tries to realize that happy day, when man shall recognize the Science of Christ and love his neighbor as himself, – when he shall realize God's omnipotence and the healing power of the divine Love in what it has done and is doing for mankind. The promises will be fulfilled" (p. 55).
Prayer is not wishful thinking. It's the alignment of thought with the only power in the universe. When my prayer is the desire to meekly understand and accept God's loving plan for His child, wonderful experiences follow. And that's what happened.
In 1987 my wife brought me a newspaper article. Things had loosened up a little bit in the GDR, and to test the limits, a college professor in our area had placed an ad in an East German weekly paper, inviting readers to write to him. When the article was written, 600 responses had arrived in his mailbox; by the time I contacted him, more than 1,000 had written in hopes of finding a pen pal in the West.
The professor had roughly sorted the responses into a list of names and occupations. I picked one, a family from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a state along the Baltic Sea in northeast Germany.
They were not the couple I'd seen from the train. They were a family of five, and we wrote back and forth for a few years. After 1990, when the wall came down, they visited us in the US, two at a time, on three different occasions. In this case, separation had been obliterated.
Our East German friends had high expectations, and they worked hard to achieve them. Seeing my way of life through their eyes helped me understand brotherly love in a new way.
God is my helper.
Psalms 54:4, New English Bible