Day #19: July 17, 2009
Our first full day in Amsterdam started at 10am, with a new friend named Mirella who is a local to the city. She started by taking us to visit a friend of hers and then to get some lunch. It was a bit of a random day, as we went from one spot to the next, but she was a great host to show us as much of Amsterdam as possible. We went to a spot to see thousands of bikes, which is the number one method of transportation in this city.
We went on a beautiful canal tour of Amsterdam and learned that Amsterdam has more canals that Venice, numbering over 100 canals and over 1,000 bridges! Before coming to Amsterdam, I had no clue about its beautiful canals and boathouses!
Once we finished our boat tour, the next part of our day was exploring what Amsterdam is actually known for. We found ourselves in the Red Light District and truthfully, I cannot even begin to describe the oppression I felt when we entered the area. Women selling their bodies in windows, sex shops and adult entertainment clubs were packed on one street side by side. Whiffs of marijuana came in waves, and my head started pounding from just smelling the aroma seeping through the air from local “coffee shops.” Mirella was telling us that many people go to Amsterdam and say to her, “You live in Paradise!” When Mirella told me that, my heart broke for the distortion of what is true, good, just, and pure. I wish I could describe in this blog the feeling I had as I walked those streets…it was as if someone had their hand physically pressing heavily upon my lower throat/upper chest/heart. Once we were away, the weighty impression lifted, but my heart was left broken for this city. Morally, how can we as a world think this is just and right? When a nine-year-old girl can legally sell her body for money, we need to really, really consider our future. After quickly getting out of the area, Mirella took us up to a high point in Amsterdam to get a great view of the entire city. Still heavy from the Red Light, I couldn’t help but look over this broken city and pray for the spiritual subjugation it has over many of the people it attracts.
After doing some shopping and more site seeing, we went to a local supermarket and had a picnic feast together. The weather was perfect and the food was delicious. What was even better was getting to know Mirella even more and her testimony of God’s love and grace. What a blessing Mirella was to us, taking time out of her schedule and ever so patient with Amy and I as we went in and out many, many shops! Truly Mirella is a sweet girl, and quick to give God ALL glory and praise!
Our day concluded by going to our first museum of our entire trip, The Van Gogh Art Museum! Van Gogh paintings galore! My favorite Van Gogh painting was “The Pink Peach Tree,” which really shows his two favorite themes: flowers and anything with a Japanese influence. I also learned something that well, shocked me. Van Gogh only painted for ten years of his life! Ten years…and before those ten years, he had absolutely no experience in either drawing or painting before he decided to become an artist. He just decided one day to be an artist and he was that good. Incredible. What is a tragedy is the end of that tenth year.
“He moved to Auxer-sur-Oise where he became fully aware of his artistic power. ‘I feel like a failure,’ he wrote, ‘I feel as though this is my fate, and that it will no longer change.’ On July 27, 1890 he shot himself in the chest and died of his wound two days later…”
-Van Gogh Museum
This breaks my heart. What if he hadn’t of succumbed to the pressure of production? What if his personal view of his work wasn’t perceived as a failure, but as a true gift and success that shows artwork can speak to many viewers? What other masterpieces would have Van Gogh created in the years to come if he hadn’t taken that gun to his chest? Oh the lost potential. And he was only 37 years old.
I cannot help but relate this to life today. How many of us are wasting out potential by falling into the mindset that what we do, who we are, and even our talents or “lack-there-of” is a failure? What if we started to live with a new perspective of who God has made us to be and start using the talents already placed within us? I pray our potential glorifies God and not personal glory or gain.
Theme of Amsterdam: Van Gogh believed it was his fate, so he took matters into his own hands. The women who cheaply sell their bodies in street windows are trapped in the same mindset; validating their worth by money through cheap sex. Youth who are addicted to marijuana have no hope for a better future, nor do they even think a better future is possible. I pray Amsterdam is no longer chained to fates of failure and held bondage in depression and I hope for true freedom to live up to its true, God-given potential.
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” Ephesians 1:11, The Message