God’s Rembrandt


Amsterdam is God’s Rembrandt, a piece of stunningly horrific beauty.

Built in 1956, the year I was born, this World War II memorial represents the suffering inflicted upon this region. This, after all, is the place where dozens of youngsters like Anne Frank, like Corrie Ten Boom, participated in very treacherous adventures of hide-and-seek with the Germans.

The canals of this town are filled with the tears of those who have known an agony I can only imagine but never comprehend.

Just beyond this arch is a courtyard, site of the former Civil orphanage, where abandoned children longed, from the 16th Century until the 1960s.

And here, beyond these doors, women have sought shelter from horrors unimaginable, and sometimes simply from a world too preoccupied with selfish pursuits.

The doors are shut against those who would seek to devour tender souls, but the problem, of course , is that there is no way to shut out the human in all of us.

We each hold within us the capacity for creating works of great beauty. And it matters, the creating we do.  That which we create can survive us, can honor and minister to others for generations to come.

But, it seems to me, that destruction is simply creativity taking a detour down the wrong road. It takes a lot of energy, focus, and determination, after all, to enslave another. Amsterdam’s history in the sex trade or drug industry bears witness to creativity gone awry.

I was thinking about the double-nature of man and creativity last night as Tim and I were having dinner at Dam Square.

It always comes back to which path we choose: For better or for worse. For good or for evil. Living for God or for self.

It is always such tug, this push and pull called Creation. Our great capacity for good marred by our  troubling propensity to create hurt  for ourselves and others.  Amsterdam  is a study in the nature of creativity, that place where the goodness of us becomes irrevocably interwoven with pain that is us.

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