I love, love, love, love, LOVE The Hiding Place. This is an amazing read that I'd recommend to believers and unbelievers. It is a powerful testimony. It is an incredible memoir.
Corrie ten Boom and her family (her father, her sister) hid Jews in their home during World War II. They were betrayed and then imprisoned. Her father died soon after their arrest. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, spent time in a concentration camp. That is a simple enough summary, I suppose. It doesn't really do justice to their story, however. This one that deserves to be read and reread.
The book is set in Holland, primarily in the 1930s and 1940s. It is a memoir. She does take a chapter or two to recall her life, her past. (What her family life was like. Memories of her parents, aunts, siblings, nieces and nephews. Memories of going to school. Her first (and only) love. Her work in the family's watch shop. What life was like in her community or neighborhood. It's detailed enough that it gives you a real sense of time and place.) But most of the book focuses on the Nazis and the ever-increasing dangers to Jewish people and those who helped them.
One of my biggest interests is World War II. I love to read fiction and nonfiction set during this time period. I've read plenty of memoirs and biographies. Each has a story to tell, a story worth reading. But The Hiding Place goes even beyond this. It is more than one woman's narrative about the war, about injustice and violence, about terror and uncertainty. It is a powerful testimony of God, of one family's faith in God, of the POWER of God and the astonishing effect of hope and forgiveness.
It was a day for memories. A day for calling up the past. How could we have guessed as we sat there--two middle-aged spinsters and an old man--that in place of memories we were about to be given adventure such as we had never dreamed of? Adventure and anguish, horror and heaven were just around the corner, and we did not know. (6)
"Corrie," he began instead, "do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel." (42)
It was astonishing, really, the quality of life she was able to lead in that crippled body, and watching her during the three years of her paralysis, I made another discovery about love. Mama's love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before. She sat in her chair at the window and loved us. She loved the people she saw in the street--and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world. And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in. (45)
"It is wrong to give people hope when there is no hope," he said. "It is wrong to base faith upon wishes. There will be war. The Germans will attack and we will fall." He stamped out his cigar stub in the ashtray beside the radio and with it, it seemed, the anger too, for his voice grew gentle again. "Oh, my dears, I am sorry for all Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God. For we will be beaten. But He will not." (58)
But Betsie put a finger on my mouth. "Don't say it, Corrie! There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety--O Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!" (64)
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 chiller than it ever had before that night: the shape of a Cross etched on the history of the world. (87)
Was it possible that this--all of this that seemed so wasteful and so needless--this war, Scheveningen prison, this very cell, none of it was unforeseen or accidental? Could it be part of the pattern first revealed in the Gospels? Hadn't Jesus--and here my reading became intent indeed--hadn't Jesus been defeated as utterly and unarguably as our little group and our small plans had been? But… if the gospels were truly the pattern of God's activity, then defeat was only the beginning. I would look around at the bare little cell and wonder what conceivable victory could come from a place like this. (141)
"Betsie!" I wailed, "how long will it take?" "Perhaps a long, long time. Perhaps many years. But what better way could there be to spend our lives?" I turned to stare at her. "Whatever are you talking about?" "These young women. That girl back at the bunkers. Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…" (165)
More than conquerors…It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute--poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not "we shall be." We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory. Sometimes I would slip the Bible from its little sack with hands that shook, so mysterious had it become to me. It was new; it had just been written. I marveled sometimes that the ink was dry. I had believed the Bible always, but reading it now had nothing to do with belief. It was simply a description of the way things were--of hell and heaven, of how men act and how God acts. I had read a thousand times the story of Jesus' arrest--how soldiers had slapped Him, laughed at Him, flogged Him. Now such happenings had faces and voices. (183-4)
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. (224)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible