Driving along the coast of the Netherlands, I was filled with questions. I had never been to the country, and our host for the week was eager to share about his home. As we passed through the flat green landscape and towering white wind turbines, I asked him about the history of the city we would be visiting—Emmeloord.
His response was one I had never heard before. “Well, there’s not much of one,” he said. “Seventy-five years ago, it was the ocean.”
He then proceeded to give a history of not just the city but of the Netherlands in general, and its fascinating relationship with its shores. I had no idea that large parts of the country were under water at one point. Over centuries, the nation had developed methods of reclaiming lowlands, marshes, and even the sea.
It was also from this conversation that I learned about the windmills’ part in this process. Though they serve many purposes, one of their essential roles throughout history was to pump water out of the lowlands into the rivers and beyond dikes, making land available to be inhabited and farmed.
Windmills are so commonplace in the landscape that it’s easy to stop noticing them—and to forget the monumental role they play. Though conspicuous structures, they aren’t flashy, their sails slowly turning, their work continual and consistent.
Watching the windmills from the passenger window, I couldn’t help but think about our role as believers. 1 Corinthians 15:58 reads, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord.” While our faith may not always be noticeable in the sense that it’s showy or extravagant, it should lead us to a life of sacrifice and generosity—always churning, always dependable, even if nobody is paying attention.
Photograph by Charles F. Stanley