Sunflowers

Amsterdam: 50th Anniversary of the Van Gogh Museum

We were out over the Atlantic Ocean, on our way from the Netherlands to the United States. I decided to rewatch the “Sunflowers” (Amsterdam) episode of Ted Lasso — now that our family had concluded the show’s third and final season. And it just hit different. I don’t know if it’s the trans-Atlantic aviation thing… or picking up some new things from a second viewing… or just getting another lens through which to process our family’s most-recent visit to Amsterdam.

In any event, I started crying at the part where Jamie taught Roy how to ride a bicycle. And then the notable, epiphany-level quotes just kept coming and coming. First, Jamie offered encouragement and instruction to Roy, saying:

Okay, you’re gonna sit up, look up, and pedal… Straight back up. Just straight back up… Put your feet on the pedals… That’s good! You did it for two seconds there, man. That’s an improvement. Steady on, mate… It’s all about balance, man. Just like dribbling… For Granddad!

Then it cut immediately to Higgins and Will at the jazz club in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Higgins thanked Will for joining him, and then he said:

One pilgrim alone is merely a zealot, but two pilgrims together — that’s a pilgrimage.

Next came a scene with Collin and Trent sitting at the Homomonument in the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam. Collin was pouring out his heart to Trent, saying:

Well, my whole life is two lives, really… I have an ache: an ache for both of my lives to be my only life… And I know we can’t fix every ache inside of us. But I shouldn’t have to pretend it’s not there, either.

From there, we cut to Ted out enjoying the city’s Museumnacht (which was one of my favorite annual events, when our family lived in the Netherlands). In the Van Gogh Museum, a docent was talking to Ted about the famous Dutch painter:

One doesn’t expect to get from life what one has already learned it cannot give; rather, one begins to see that life is a kind of sowing time, and the harvest is not yet here. He was just a humble preacher’s son. And yes, he had his demons, but they never stopped him from searching for beauty. Because when you find beauty, you find inspiration — if, that is, you stay as determined as Vincent. Never stop, no matter how many failures. When you know you’re doing what you’re meant to do, you have to try.

I’m not exactly taking these quotes as the voice of God or anything like that, but it does all seem to point to something significant that I experienced in my own life in my own “Amsterdam episode.” We’re really all just incompetent, lost souls, chasing windmills. We have some sort of internal compass — God-given, by my understanding, even though I’m not sure how the creators and writers of Ted Lasso would parse that — and it keeps us on a life-long pilgrimage. Our incompetence — or, more generally, our insufficiency — makes us insecure and inclined towards living a double life, even when that makes the problem worse, not better. But when we learn to accept our limitations and view this life as “a kind of sowing time,” we can find beauty, and inspiration, and determination, and hope. Even in the face of failure.

My “Amsterdam episode” was filled with so many of these existential questions and halting epiphanies. I came up against my insufficiency and insecurity and identity issues in so many painful ways. But God shaped me through those years. I started out as a young man, just four years older than the current age of my son Elliot! But I finished my Amsterdam years with a far clearer sense of my truest and best identity, as a child of God. A small, small sojourner seeking after a great and glorious God: nowhere quite at home, and yet also nowhere quite adrift.

Upon reflection, my heart just continues to well up with gratitude for this pilgrimage our family was privileged to have in Europe. It cost a lot of money, and it took a lot of work to pull everything together — but it was worth every penny and every drop of sweat.

This entry was posted in Amsterdam, Amsterdam50, Church, Culture, Europe, European Missions, Family, God, Introspection, Leadership, Middle Age, Ministry, Prayer, Recommendations, Recommended Viewing, The Netherlands, Travel, Young Adulthood. Bookmark the permalink.

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