Friday, July 21, 2017

Faith Amidst Horror: The Hiding Place

by Corrie ten Boom

This is one of many worthwhile books proposed as further reading in the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis. One reading book should be chosen for the six-week study of World War II, but oh, how to choose just one?! Only a few are ones I had read myself, so in a hopeless search of the perfect choice (since they are all excellent), I'm reading many of them myself for the first time.

The Hiding Place is a memoir of Corrie ten Boom's life. In her late forties when the Nazis invade her Dutch homeland, she and her family courageously protect and shelter Jews from the invaders. Eventually, they are caught. She and her sister are imprisoned and moved from camp to camp until the war's end draws near. The book is one of faith and trust, describing how her saintly sister's hope and prayers sustain them and bring light to the world in a time of tremendous darkness and evil.

Corrie's family is Christian and her thoughts often dwell on how a Christian should behave when the world has gone mad.
We knew, of course, that there was an underground in Holland--or suspected it. Most cases of sabotage were not reported in our controlled press, but rumors abounded. A factory had been blown up. A train carrying political prisoners had been stopped and seven, or seventeen, or seventy, had made it away. But always they featured things we believed were wrong in the sight of God. Stealing, lying, murder. Was this what God wanted in times like these? How should a Christian act when evil was in power?
Though they always balked at murder, her family members and their underground often stole and lied to protect people from the Nazis.
Love. How did one show it? How could God Himself show truth and love at the same time in a world like this?
By dying. The answer stood out for me sharper and chillier than it ever had before that night: the shape of a Cross etched on the history of the world.
In the concentration camps, Corrie's sister, Betsie, recognizes the greatest needs and sorrows within the guards and other employees at the camp. Though their bodies suffer less than those of the inmates, their souls endure grievous wounds. Betsie always insisted there was hope for them, that they could be taught to love.
I glanced at the matron seated at the desk ahead of us. I saw a gray uniform and a visored hat; Betsie saw a wounded human being.
And I wondered, not for the first time, what sort of a person she was, this sister of mine...what kind of road she followed while I trudged beside her on the all-too-solid earth.
Working in Germany after the war, work her sister envisioned before her death at their hands, Corrie met one of the SS men they had encountered in a camp. Though she had been serving the German people and speaking repeatedly of forgiveness and love, she stood dumbstruck, angry and quivering. She prayed:
Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Corrie's story is a powerful one of holding fast to the Truth and Beauty of Jesus in the face of absolute horror in the concentration camps. Yet it maintains the dignity of all human life, even those who participated in the camps or turned their backs rather than speak out.

It is a book strikingly Evangelical in character; it's purpose is to share the story of Betsie and God's redeeming work in the world.

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