Summer Read: The Hiding Place

I’m feeling a bit lost. I just finished the book, the true story, The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. Isn’t she adorable? She reminds me of my grandma — actually, everyone’s grandmother. Not just her face — but her heart. The heart of a grandma. Her book has been out for decades, but this was my first
time reading the book. In Corrie’s words, she says that even she, “Couldn’t face what was happening to her.” Her story goes beyond paying back evil with good… her book is how to survive, merely because you choose to do good. I miss holding the book, as each page revealed the truth of one of God’s greatest promises, “All things work together for Good…”

I knew that the ten Boom family was arrested from their home in Holland for hiding Jews from the Germans during WWII. She lost her sister, Betsie, and best friend, in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She lost her Father too, in prison.

But Corrie was actually scheduled to die, she learned later. A clerical error kept her from going to the Gas Chamber, and she was released. Alive, so she could tell the story, start the home for the prisoners, and help those heal. Alive, so that she could tell us about the “miracles” that came while they were in prison. Miracles. Little gifts bestowed by God that comforted — like the fleas that kept the guards out of their bunks. Otherwise, they would have been beaten, but the guards were afraid to come in because of the fleas.

Who would dare to hurt a sweet face like this one? Really? You tortured her in prison? Made he sleep on rotting straw every night? Surely, if the guards would only look into her eyes, they would decide she is too sweet for this? How did Corrie, of all people, go on to teach others about forgivness? She lost everything, and everyone she loved because of that war. How, exactly, do the events unfold in this woman’s life, and how did she handle them? How did she survive her fear? Those questions led me to this old book.

The story begins with a description of their idyllic life in Holland, before the Germans invaded. Father was a watchmaker, and customers come in and out all the time — a wide circle of friends. We read about the morning breakfast table in the tiny dining room, that was once the bedroom where father was born, tea time… the rhythm of their days. It reminds me of my own rhythm and how easily I like to get settled into a routine. The summer. The boys home all day. Lunch at 1, a ration of chips on each plate, pasta or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How much I love the predictability of simple things. This can’t end. The sun is so hot and high in the north; the days last forever. The days are like concrete. Unchanging. Yet, the sun is moving, gradually south, the days are getting shorter, and this summer rhythm that seems so fixed will end.

And, it all ends for Corrie and her precious family.

Father was always opening his home to adopt children, so it really, was not surprise, that Jews went there for refuge, and that the ten Boom family would give them safe harbor.

Surely, nothing can happen to disrupt this idyllic rhytmic life — they are such good people!? Yet, once their very own minister scolded them for asking him to hide a young Jewish baby and its mother, to hide them in his home in the country. “You could loose your lives by such behavior,” he reprimanded them. Father took the baby, looked into its eyes, and said simply, “It would be my honor to die for this baby.” Now you see the kind of people we’re talking about.

Light is always brighter than darkness, right? The ten Boom family soon saw a darkness that was thicker than any evil they could have ever imagined. That you, reader, will ever imagine. It was only because I know that Corrie ten Boom turns this horrific story into healing for so many that I could continue to pick up the book each day.

Corrie was so perceptive. She was quick to learn that her greatest challenge in prison was not simply to surivive, but rather, not to let the evil that was around her to become part of her. She carried books of the Bible in a pouch she hung around her back — not the front, where it could leave a bulge — or she would have been killed. I say “books” because the prisoners would tear out the books of their precious Bibles, so rare were, so the book would be thin and easier to hide. They would hand out the leftover books to other prisoners. This was their candy. The words in the Bible popped off the page; words of hope, and gave them their “daily bread.” Words, that for many, meant nothing before prison. Somehow, through the cloud of all this darkness, the words of the Bible gave them strength, mercy, and hope that good would, eventually triumph — even if that meant death. Oh, to die there– what a blessing that was for Betsie.

And the other breathtaking miracle, is the mercy Corrie showed to her fellow prisoners, and how she worked so hard to let mercy and kindness be her “norm” and her love became the beacon to help those around her. Her kindness became contagious, and changed the entire ward. She was able to create a “hiding place” within the walls of the prison by adamantly choosing to love others, through all of the atrocities. This became her job.

I miss the book. I miss holding it and reading an account of something horrendous, and letting Corrie reveal how she turned it around into something good. Every page was leading to a new revelation, a new glimmer in the thousands of glimmers in Corrie ten Boom’s eyes.

There are great lessons in The Hiding Place. I can’t wait for a few years to go by, so I can pick it up and read it  again.

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