Abandoned Berlin

Themes for the trip: cold hands, dürur, and sore feet. I walked everywhere and aside from the fact that I only wore Clark’s Desert Boots, I think my feet were still trying to recover from the Athens Marathon. It’s probably good that it was so cold in Berlin because my feet were perpetually iced the whole trip. At one point, I thought my right ‘ring’ toe (don’t know what else to call that one) wasn’t gonna make it. Luckily, stuffing paper towels in your shoes holds heat like a charm. This was and wasn’t my first rodeo.

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Highlights from my trip to Berlin include seeing my friend Jeremy and staying with his German host-family, attempting to understand German, eating at Christmas markets, finding a NATO spy base, and exploring abandoned amusement parks. Berlin was a young city with some pretty recent history. Many of its buildings are modern, but they compliment the plethora of much older buildings in a very unique way. These buildings likely lived through the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a heavily monitored wall that completely surrounded West Berlin. I learned a lot about the Berlin’s importance in WWII, the Cold War, and the division of Germany. It’s hard to believe how recent these events were.

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One of my favorite parts about Berlin is the number of abandoned sites it contains. They litter Berlin in a way that completely contradicts its ordered, clean, and efficient culture. Typically, people are not allowed into these sites, but if you can jump high enough they might let you in. Unfortunately I cannot jump very high.

It’s so funny how many of these sites are cut off to the public. I understand how certain ones, like the abandoned amusement park, are potentially dangerous, but c’mon. The Olympic village from 1936 should not be abandoned and neither should the scene of the Valkyrie assassination plot against Hitler, 1000 room apartment buildings, old hospitals, old airports, old supermarkets, etc. Usually the sites are simply overgrown with weeds, fenced off, and away from the city center. At the abandoned amusement park, I was unable to enter not only because the fence was a wee bit too high, but also because there were workers inside cleaning up the site. This site was not open to the public, yet they were cleaning it as if it were. I found that really odd. While the rusty Ferris wheel ominously creaked in the slow cold breeze, I sat there watching men in big trucks aimlessly cleaning something that would probably be destroyed eventually. I bet they have been slowly clearing debris on this site for years. It was all unnecessary performance. No public eyes would see the inside, but for some reason these men had been told to clean the park as if they would. It didn’t make sense.

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When I think about these abandoned sites, I can’t help but consider how Jesus pursues us. Jesus claims that there is no need to turn your abandoned, dead life into something that looks somewhat put together. In fact, he tells us that his performance is enough. His death on the cross, his perfect life, his blameless service was enough. This means we can sit with confidence before God because our lack of performance is superseded by Jesus’ perfect performance. But why did he have to perform perfectly? Because he wanted to make God accessible to his people. Because he came to fulfill everything before him. Because only through grace can one experience life; a dead man can’t ever make himself more alive. There is no performance needed to grasp the life that Jesus offers.

God doesn’t want you to try and put together your abandoned park before approaching him. So here’s a crazy thought: give him access to the park. Take down the ‘danger’ signs and give him a grand tour. Will he ignore the heaps of rubble and creaky Ferris wheel? Maybe not, but he can show you how to deal with them in ways that are more effective than your weak bulldozers and backhoes. The best resolve might simply be a change of focus, turning your eyes from the rubble to the one who meets you in it. That process might be hard and it may be difficult to stop cleaning your life, but boy is it worth it. Joy, confidence, love, contentment await you. All you have to do is tear down those fences.

I learned a lot in Germany, but mental pictures like these I will cherish. It’s crazy to think that I only have nine days left in this abroad journey.. I’m praying I leave this place well.

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