I’ve been home from Denmark for exactly two months as I begin to write this, and the weather outside (chilly, but gloriously sunny) reminds me of Sundays in Aarhus as I journeyed to church (usually with Vertical Church Band playing, so I’m listening to their album now too, just for the nostalgia).
Anyway, hi there! I’m Amy, I’m twenty years old, and I’m a second-year English student at QUB. Last year I had the opportunity to pack up my stuff, move out of my little first-year student house in Belfast, and send myself and my belongings 600 miles away to Denmark, where I would be studying for a little while at Aarhus University.
If I’m completely honest I thought going away would be easy. As a relatively independent, generally quite confident, people person I thought I would settle into a new way of life straight away. Much to my dismay, this wasn’t really the case. After the initial exploring was done and ‘real life’ began again, independence seemed to feel a bit more like solitary confinement, and after a few mishaps, the confidence I had had at the beginning was replaced with irrational anxious thoughts about my own inabilities and weaknesses. Quite frankly, this sucked. I felt like I had failed (at what I don’t really know), my pride was damaged at the thought of needing to admit that I was lonely and ask for help, and I told myself that I should just suck it up and deal with it; after all, it was my choice to go.
Whilst this didn’t exactly feel like a high point of my life at the time, as I look back in hindsight, it was clearly one of the most spiritually fruitful. With no arms to run into physically, and technological communication not quite cutting it, I spent lengthy early morning hours in prayer or studying passages of the Bible. This time for me was invaluable. Often, on days where I awoke feeling burdened and terrified at the prospect of the day ahead, these feelings were quickly alleviated and replaced with the realisation that although yes, I am weak and I can’t do much, Jesus is not and He can and has! All the thoughts of my own inadequacies were overwhelmed by the renewed promise that I didn’t need to be good enough, nor could I try to be of my own accord, because Jesus already is good enough and that in itself rendered me (and continues to render me) free from God’s condemnation and in turn also my own.
After a brief trip home in October to reenergise, Danish life seemed much more manageable. I went back determined to preach the truth of the gospel to myself instead of believing the lies my own brain had convinced were fact. As my best friend was once reminded, and has since passed on to me, ‘It’s not about what you feel, it’s about what you know.’. I knew that God was faithful, I had witnessed that He provided, and I knew I was never really as alone as I felt. With this is mind, the next two and a bit months felt almost entirely different to the two that had gone before.
A wonderful Danish friend had long ago introduced me to a church that offered an English translation of their services, but despite having good intentions, I hadn’t yet made it to a service by myself. Only when I began to attend and truly felt the love of Christian brothers and sisters was I reminded of just how important being committed to church is, and I really regret not having realised this sooner. Attending Bykirke was so good for my soul. Not only was I taught and instructed, but I was also welcomed and loved (despite most Danes not understanding my accent and referring to me as ‘Emy’), and also enabled to wholeheartedly worship and partake in communion alongside other believers. On almost all of the Sundays I made it to church, a verse or a song I had been focused on during the week somehow ‘coincidently’ made its way into the service. It reminded me that we are not called to do Christianity alone, we’re called into community not only with Christ, but also with each other. My desire for independence at the beginning of my trip had not only led me into loneliness, but it had also drawn me away from this gospel truth. I cannot be an island, and thank goodness I no longer want to be!
Denmark is the most incredible country, and I am so privileged that I had the opportunity to temporarily make it my home. I understand now that although at times it was painful, I needed to be removed from the life I was comfortable in to acknowledge some real truths about myself and some even bigger truths about God and His gospel. I made some great friends, persevered through multiple setbacks (these are stories better told in person), and even after acknowledging how difficult it was, I would most definitely try to become a Dane all over again (provided that I could bring a friend). In an overly dramatic, very ‘me’ sort of way, and to exploit a perfectly good James Joyce quote, ’When I die, Denmark will be written on my heart’.
Much as I have days where all I want in the world is some good Danish coffee and a trip to ARoS, NI life is pretty sweet too. At times I still believe my own lies quicker than I do what’s true, but for the most part, I can recognise this and turn it on its head. I’m treasuring time spent with my church family, and appreciating more than ever the beautiful people in my life. Whilst it’s difficult not to slip back into old habits, God, as ever, comes alongside me in my struggle and with His help I keep pushing on in life and into Him.
If you need some encouragement today have a read of Psalm 139. One of my most notable Danish memories is a Sunday afternoon I spent by the harbour (after trying not to cry once I realised I was on the right bus going the wrong direction, missing church in the process) reading this Psalm over and over and over again, reminding myself of God’s intimate knowledge of who I am and his love for me even still!
Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful day!