Jesus on Pusher Street.

10.12.2020

Dad,

I have had a bit of writer’s block lately you could say. A brilliant idea or revelation took shape in my thoughts probably three weeks ago now, and I have yet to flesh it out. Every time I think about writing on it, my mind is blank. Or maybe distracted. I have a feeling it is more distracted than blank.

Tonight, when we were all eating dinner after training, one of the girls asked me what my high and low of age twenty-five was. On the eve of twenty-six years, reflecting on the last twelve months seemed overwhelming. Her question struck me because the last year could have been five years with all that has happened. It is crazy to consider what I was thinking at this very time last year. What hadn’t happened yet that would happen. What I was expecting and hoping for the coming months. What I knew and didn’t know. It all seems like too much to pin one high and one low from. The onset of the corona virus and quarantine marked my one-year anniversary of moving home from Texas and deciding to continue playing soccer. My plan was to give the pro pursuit a year, and if I didn’t make a team or have a contract, I would be done. Peacefully and graciously so.

At about that time, a far green country unfolded into view. Denmark became something out of nothing. And I have to say I think this is my high. It is my high not only because of the fulfillment of my dream of playing professional soccer and the incredible experience it has been, but mostly because it is an unforgettable expression of God’s faithfulness and promise to provide the best for us. He mercifully kept loosening my grip on soccer. Mercifully increased my desire for obedience over the fruition of my plans. I could choose to play in Denmark out of the freedom found in seeking His will and my love for playing, not enslavement to it.

Brothers and sisters:
It is written that Abraham had two sons,
one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman.
The son of the slave woman was born naturally,
the son of the freeborn through a promise.
Now this is an allegory.
These women represent two covenants.
One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery;
this is Hagar.
But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother.
For it is written:
‘Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children;
break forth and shout, you who were not in labor;
for more numerous are the children of the deserted one
than of her who has a husband.’
Therefore, brothers and sisters,
we are children not of the slave woman
but of the freeborn woman.

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

[Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31: 5:1]

I am a child of a freeborn woman. My birth is through a promise of adoption and inheritance. A choice. A covenant reminding me I am loved as I am not because of who I am but because of Who He is.

I came to Denmark standing firm in the freedom of this truth. It is truly what got me here. Little did I know, there was more still. A literal place in Denmark unlike any other claiming its own freedom. It’s called Christiania. Freetown Christiania.

What makes this neighborhood commune in the middle of the bustling city of Copenhagen a “Freetown?”

It is quite an interesting story. I think, at least. The area of Christiania is a former military barracks. In the borough of Christianshavn, once a separate city established by King Christian IV in 1617, the barracks housed the Royal Artillery Regiment, along with other military resources until their abandonment between 1967 and 1971. In 1971, Christiania became the resting place of people who were homeless in the city. Soon after, it was declared open and deemed a free town, an opportunity to “create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the well-being of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.” [Christiania’s mission statement from 1971]

The idea was to build a society from scratch. A snow globe where the outside world and its rules and injustices were kept on the other side of the glass walls. Christiania would form its own rules, by which its inhabitants adhere to for the peace of the whole community. Seemingly untouchable by Danish law and authority, Christiania became an oasis for those dissatisfied with or unable to abide in society. The establishment of the well-known Pusher Street, where weed is sold openly (otherwise illegal in Denmark), represents the free town spirit and ethics of Christiania.

Honestly, the idea is rather appealing to me. How cool in 1971, just about fifty years ago, the opportunity comes to start from scratch. Fresh off the second world war and the other troubles and rebuilding the world was undergoing. Here could be a place free from it all. I think I may have been tempted to see what it was all about if I was around at that time.

What exactly, though, makes this social experiment considered a free town? What sort of freedom does Christiania offer those looking to join the community?

A dear Danish friend of mine spent part of his childhood in Christiania; here is what it means to him…

“In Christiania, you never have more than your friends and family because if you have more or earn more, you share it with those in need. You choose your own way in life. If you want to go down the path of shooting, drugs, and stabbing, it’s right outside your door. But you can also take the other path of creativity and love for others. So many kids from Christiania grow up to become musicians or other kinds of artists.

You have to be streetwise. Know your way out of trouble and so. When you understand that, it is fantastic.”

My friend’s experience was all I knew about Christiania in the beginning, but it is open to tourists, and it is one of the most popular attractions in Copenhagen. When visiting for the first time, I admit I was a little uneasy. My friend seemingly turned out ok after living there, but what would a place operating outside of the normal law be like? What would the people be like? Hippies? Anarchists? Socialists? Rebellious? Angry? Suspicious of outsiders? Wild?

All of my ignorant judgements clouded their most important identity. Human beings. People like me with joys and sorrows. People like me who had their own stories filled with experiences, wounds, and graces. A part of me felt separate from them. Separate from their addictions and lifestyle. Another part felt empathetic towards them. Empathetic from how little they had. Still, another part was jealous of them. Jealous they could be in this place protected and free from the weight of the world. But were they really free for this reason? Were they really free just being away from the pressures and concerns and judgements of people from the outside like me?

In the Gospels, the authors all recount the story of Jesus dining at Levi’s house, a tax collector, with other tax collectors and sinners.

When the scribes who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with these people, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. [Mark 2:16-17]

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Matthew 9:12-13]

Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [Luke 5:31-32]

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure-who can understand it? [Jeremiah 17:9]

This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. [1 Timothy 1:15]

The Pharisees and scribes considered themselves holy, abiding by the law as laid down by Moses in the covenant given to the Israelite people by God. They considered sinners as people lesser than themselves. Those who did not abide by the law and thus flawed in some way. Holy people were not to interact with sinners for fear of being stained by their unholiness and sinfulness. Jesus, with all His knowledge of the law and His miraculous healings, chose to be intimate with the castaways of the Jewish society. He called them to Himself. Asking them to follow Him. Not in the sense of Him being better than them and His goodness rubbing off on them so they could elevate themselves from their castaway status. Rather so they could know Him and be healed. They could know their personality and uniqueness and quirks were as exactly as they ought to be, as they were created to be. And as they got to know Him, they would see the goodness in those things that made them both like and unlike those around them.

I found out from my Danish friend that there used to be a man who lived in Christiania called Jesus. He didn’t know much about this man’s story outside of the reverence the Christianites held for him. Upon hearing this from my friend, the meaning was unmistakable to me. Christiania is not a free town because the people are free to do as they please or are outside of the law or norms of society as a whole. Christiania is a free town because people feel less pressure or maybe no pressure at all to be anyone besides themselves. Maybe a greater understanding exists within the community that people are people. Capable of great and evil things. Subject to flaws and addictions and immense transformation. And this is exactly where Jesus meets us. This is the freedom we find in knowing Him.

The flag of Christiania is solid red with three yellow discs. The discs represent the dots of each “i” in “Christiania.” There is something to be said about the history of this banner, though. The origin is from the military standard of the Roman emperor Constantine called a labarum. The labarum displayed the “chi-rho” symbol, a christogram (combination of letters to form an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ) formed from the first two Greek letters of the word “Christ.”

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. However, at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? [Galatians 4: 6-9]

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. [Galatians 5:1]

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Galatians 5:13-14]

There is a significant difference between accepting and loving. Accepting doesn’t leave much room for transformation. Loving does. I would argue if love doesn’t transform, it isn’t true love at all. Freedom does not leave us to accept and indulge every desire because we are human after all and all flawed. Freedom leaves us acknowledging our every desire ought not to be indulged because we are flawed and willing us towards something greater than ourselves and our desires. Loving my neighbor as myself means the same evil I find in myself is found in him or her and the same grace that is extended to me is extended to him or her. We are not sons and daughters because of who we are but because of Who our Father is. We are loved as we are not because of who we are but because of Who He is.

Jesus is on Pusher Street. He comes to find me in the most broken and addicted and enslaved places of my heart. He resides with my temptations and faults and bad habits, not accepting them but healing, transforming, and loving them.

I go to the Pusher Street of my heart and find freedom in Jesus knowing me there. I find I am the most myself when He is most in my heart. This is a high, indeed.

I love you dad,

Lauren

larry_saj6Author

"Surely man at his best is a mere breath." -King David I am a mere breath God has graciously gifted to be His daughter first, a daughter and sister, a friend, an athlete, a writer, a coach. I hope to be a full-time professional soccer player, write a book or two, be a lifelong learner, work for a sports and faith ministry, coach college soccer, have a family and maybe even pick up the guitar. My dad died when I was a sophomore in college. Writing became especially important to me after his death, helping me grieve and heal. I find writing letters to him has helped me process deep emotions and pain I didn't really know what to do with. My hope is the letters will share experiences that speak to and shine a light into the lives and stories of others in some way.

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