• Marnie Hammar

The "Happy Jesus" Guy in the Chicago Loop


My first fancy job required a daily train ride into downtown Chicago. On Fridays, as I joined the throng emerging from the train station, I’d scan the crowd looking for him. I didn’t know his name, but I called him “Happy Jesus Guy.” I’d see his sign first, with it’s heavily black-markered words that read, “Happy Jesus.” (Hence, my very creative name for him.) ⁠

Holding the sign high, he’d weave his way slowly through the sea of commuters as we speed-walked to our buildings, smiling kindly at anyone who cared to make eye contact. His gentle, faithful weekly appearance spoke to me more than the street-corner Jesus-yellers who delivered their words from milk crates. ⁠

Actually, those angry milk crate experiences ruined me for the word 'repent'. I think Jesus Himself would choose weaving through the crowd over yelling from above. Even though I was a Jesus girl, when I’d hear their imploring “Repent!” I’d want to pivot and employ my really-fast-commuter-walk in the other direction. Ironic, given that repent means “to turn.”⁠

But in the Greek, repent is “metanoeo,” which means to change one’s mind. That doesn’t feel angry, does it? That certainly doesn’t need a milk crate. I fully believe that Happy Jesus Guy knew that. True repentance isn’t found in the turning from part. It’s found in who we’re turning to. The power isn’t in the act of turning—the power is where my eyes and heart rest when I’ve turned. When I’ve changed my mind.⁠

When Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17, NIV), He was saying, "Change your mind." He was saying, "You’ve seen the darkness, but I’m the Light. I’m near you. I’m right here. Turn. Come, follow Me."⁠


Read the rest at The Joyful Life Magazine.

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