On the first day of my retreat I was occupied only with myself. It was a wretched morning of a pitiless internal dialogue: You have done this badly, and this is wrong with you – you have to change that by all means … Driven by those demons I was also somewhat indignant at God: „Come on, God – is here any other reason that I take part in Spiritual Exercises? You could speak now with me after all.“ While I was grumbling in such a way with me and with God a man with a box of beer in his hand cleared his throat on the bank beside me. I considered whether that was a first sign of God, but I did not know quite right how I should address the man. I was also uncertain whether this harrumphing did mean me. „Indeed, you have to speak more clearly with me, God, so that I can hear it, otherwise you may leave it …“
I went to the area of the underground Kottbusser Damm. This glaring, unprotected and pitiless world seemed to me just the right place for my condition. There I sat in the scanty shade of a small tree. A small and obviously confused woman ran past me. She was dressed much too warmly for the heat, had on two different heavy shoes, and had put a few cloths on her head. She grumbled loudly and incomprehensibly for herself. It came to my mind: She is like me – furious, impulsive and fast. The woman ran three times past me, and then she was out of view. While I was looking after her I longed to see her again, and at the same time I foresaw that she would not come back. The history of Moses at the crevice came into my mind. Moses wanted to see God, and God put him into a crevice, held his hand over it, and passed him – then Moses could see God’s back. Like Moses I saw the woman’s back. There I understood that God had just passed me. During those short five minutes in which I had observed this woman, God had showed himself completely humanly: furious, impulsive and fast. It seemed to me so tenderly that God spoke to me in my language: briefly, directly, and clearly. Is that not lovingly? God appears to me from a side which I particularly do not like at me: furious, impatient and impulsive! In this instant at the crevice I understood what it means: ‚God loves you‘.
In the course of the retreat God spoke with me by very different people. There were above all the people who are sitting all day long at the Oranien Place, drinking their beer. They were my preachers, pastors, and way companions. God met me also in the women who were drug streetwalkers – in an inimitably affectionate and direct way.
I want to tell an experience still in more detail.
On the last day of the retreat, a Saturday, a colleague reminded us already in the morning during the prayer: „Today is Sabbath; see to it that you hold the Sabbath in your way.“ I did not listen to him. I did also not pay attention to the fact that my heart did not call me just anywhere, and set simply out. I ignored the fact that I had no money for a ticket, and stole a ride. At the place where people are walking the street for drugs I sat down on a small step, and knew actually not the aim of my being here. Then a bull-like boxer appeared before me with a just as bull-like master, in order to drive me away from the step. But I did not understand yet, and sat down simply in a distance of ten meters. Thus I went still two hours without sense and understanding through the city and simply ignored all signs that sent me home. Only when I was already tired I understood suddenly: You are told to hold Sabbath today – it is about that! Today I must smile about how slow I was in the uptake then. And I am pleased from my whole heart that God did not stop to give me signs patiently – even as he had to say ten times the same to me: Make a break! It is good to know that God does not give up.
In the afternoon of this Saturday I sat then finally on my bank at the Oranien Place and dozed. At this place God had prepared still another beautiful gift for me at the conclusion of the retreat. Two banks further a quite drunken man began to recite a poem:
„God says: …“
Of course, with such an introduction I stopped to listen. Hence I unfortunately forgot the first lines of the poem. Then it said:
„Do you believe seriously we would not see you?!
Do you believe seriously we would leave you?!
Do you believe seriously we were not there for you?!
You are marvellous!
In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
And now think exactly, what is to be done.“