The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom
What do you do when diagnosed with COVID and quarantined for two weeks? First, you sleep… a lot. Second, you eat. And third, you read. Reading “The Hiding Place” reminded me that my situation could be much worse. As a young, healthy man, my chances of dying from COVID are small. Similarly, as an American living in the 21st century, I have tremendous freedoms and opportunities. It’s hard to imagine a life like Corrie’s. She spent every day just trying to live and trying to maintain joy. She had no possessions other than her Bible and a few Dutch coins. In a way, this story about survival during the Nazi occupation made me crave a simpler way of life. Sometimes, this life seems excessively stressful and busy. Relaxing and reading, like I did today, reminded me how nice it feels to slow down and not be busy. To me, it felt really nice. And honestly, it had me wondering about a more simplistic lifestyle – a life free of work stresses, free of social obligations, devoid of extravagant possessions, and free of expectations. The life that Corrie lived was neither extravagant nor marked by material wealth. Her daily focus was to survive until tomorrow, and to help others survive until tomorrow. In this regard, her life was simple. And this is the simplicity that I, and others, crave. However, I do not envy Corrie’s lifestyle or situation. I do not envy her experiences in prison camps, her forced labors, or her times spent in hiding and fear. A “simple” lifestyle comes with its own set of stresses and anxieties.
Corrie Ten Boom grew up in Haarlem, Holland. Her father was a watchmaker, and by association so was Corrie. She lived at home with her family until she was taken by the Nazi police, and she never married. I enjoyed the childhood stories that she shared about her father. For example, one day Corrie asked her papa about sex, and her father handed a large suitcase to her, asking her to carry it. When Corrie complained that the case was too heavy, papa responded that giving an answer to Corrie’s question would be too heavy a burden for a young girl. For the moment, Corrie must allow her father to carry the load, and when she gets older she will be able to carry the burden of knowledge. I thought this was a terrific and wisely-worded answer. Another great example of papa’s wisdom was illustrated when Corrie cried out to him about death, weeping about not wanting father to die. When did I give you the ticket to get on the train, papa asked Corrie in response. Only when Corrie was ready to get on the train did papa give her the ticket. In the same way, God knows when we need something, and he gives it to us at the moment we need it. When it is time to die, God will give us the strength to handle that burden. I loved the illustrations that papa used. He was not a good businessman, but he knew how to comfort his daughters.
Although a very good book, it clearly appeals primarily to women. The best example to illustrate this is Corrie’s obsession with the boy, Karel. Since the first time that she saw him, Corrie was in love. She yearned for his attention, and she was heartbroken when he got engaged to another woman. This bit of romance, which resurfaces later in the novel, is a gentle reminder that women are still women, and they will always enjoy a good romance story.
I was impressed by the resilience and strength of Corrie and her family. They were willing to risk everything to find hiding places and foster Jews in their home. To protect Jews, they installed a false wall in their home, they developed strategies for lying, they installed a buzzer system to warn of incoming Gestapo, they developed a warning system with the sign in their window, they help practice drills for emptying the kitchen, they practiced telling lies in the middle of the night, they solicited food ration cards, and they welcomed the misfits. Corrie and her family took tremendous risks to protect their Jewish countrymen, and eventually they were punished for their rebellious actions. The Gestapo dragged Corrie and her family away to Nazi camps. Corrie became malnourished, she slept on straw mattresses infested with fleas, she endured sickness, she was transported in crammed railway cars, and she was stripped naked. While in one of her prison cells, her situation was so miserable that she made friends with an ant, and this was a great source of joy. Throughout all of her hardships, Corrie retained a copy of the Bible. She was able to sneak it past the guards and past inspection stations. When her room was searched, the book was either missed or she was able to hide it in her clothes. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, spent their time ministering to the other women and sharing the good story of Jesus Christ. Despite their bleak situations, Corrie and Betsie had joy, and they spread hope. I was impressed by the harsh conditions that they were able to survive through, and I was impressed by their commitment to the Lord through everything.
Overall, this was an eye-opening biography about what life looked like for women like Corrie. They suffered incredibly, and I think it is impressive that anybody was able to survive those harsh conditions. It makes me realize how grateful I am for my current situation and current lifestyle.
Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings you have given me. Even though I have COVID, and I’m quarantined, it is still nothing compared to the persecution that Corrie faced, and the persecution of the Jewish people. We know that your people will suffer greatly, but we trust that you have the ultimate victory, and because of that I am encouraged. You are a good God, and an awesome God, and nothing is out of your control. Thank you for your faithfulness, and thank you for your love. Teach me to be loving and joyful always, so that everything I do, and in every situation, I can glorify your name, just like Corrie glorified you despite the bleakness of her situation. I praise you and thank you, Oh Lord. Amen.