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Disheveled Theologian: It's good to be reminded ...

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Munich, Germany, as I write. My husband is at a trade show and I tagged along. We’re heading to Berlin for a day and a half after leaving Munich. It’s been seven years since I’ve been in Berlin, my former home, and I’m getting excited.

Every time I come to Germany I’m struck by how different it is from the United States. Maybe that’s a dumb thing to say. Maybe it’s even politically imprudent. I mean people are people, right? We all bleed red. We all drink water. We all sweat and sleep and say “hello” in the elevator.

Only sometimes “hello” is spelled “Guten Tag” and sometimes the water is fizzy and sometimes the beds we sleep in are covered with a “federdecke” rather than a flat sheet and a quilt.

Outside my window — which is actually a huge, heavy, sliding door that opens on to a small balcony — the roofs of the houses are red slate and the church towers are topped with small black domes and the police cars and ambulances which go by every so often sound nothing like home. When I hear them I am transported back to West Berlin, to 17 years old, to insecurities and rebellion and the taste of Guinness which, while I never really liked it, I do admit I drank once or twice.

That was a long time ago now. It’s exactly 30 years since I graduated from Berlin American High School, a school which no longer exists, now that Germany has been reunified. Funny how those teen-aged feelings come rushing back. Even the sight of a German electric plug — round, not rectangular — makes me both nostalgic and a little ill at ease. Maybe if I had a better facility with languages I’d feel less awkward. Or if I weren’t so jet-lagged.

Or if the items in the mini-fridge weren’t so bloomin’ expensive. Which has nothing to do with anything; I just thought I’d point it out.

There are a lot of tiny Smart Cars here. And all the trucks are made by Mercedes. And there are 18 Arabic-speaking channels on the television. 18! Not to mention the French and Russian and Italian and Spanish and other unidentifiable languages.

We had dinner last night at a Beer Garden (it is, after all, almost Oktoberfest), which was very fun even without drinking any beer, thank you very much. I am normally not a fan of sauerkraut, but it was delicious and it, along with wurst, potatoes, and a gigantic baked pretzel, topped off the perfect German meal. I’m looking forward to more of the same tonight. Even if I am again bombarded by a falling chestnuts from an overhanging tree above our table.

Yes, it’s good to be back in Deutschland. To try new things. To get out of my comfort zone. To be reminded that there is more than one way to say “hello”.

To be reminded that Jesus died for everyone — “red, brown, yellow, black and white,” as the politically incorrect children’s Sunday School song says.

“For God so loved the world,” right? Whatever their language. Whatever cars they drive. However they eat their cabbage, “sauer” or otherwise. Whatever their skin color. Whatever their politics. Whatever their worldview. God loves them. Period.

“For God so loved the world” — God so loved me. God so loved you — “that he gave his one and only son, what whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV

No “ifs, ands or buts.” No language barriers. No exception.

It’s good to be reminded, from time to time, that different isn’t really different.

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is