Friday, November 18, 2016

Netherlands: Corrie Ten Boom and a life of "Living Faith"

“Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work he will give us to do. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things too. Don't run out ahead of him.”
                                                           --Corrie Ten Boom


Corrie's bedroom, a small room furthest from the entrance, was "the hiding place." On the bottom shelf in the closet, there is  a lever that could be pulled to enter behind the wall. Bricks were put into place to hide the hole. Nazi informers could not find the hiding place. For three days, four Jews and two Dutch resistance fighters stayed in a small area of 2" X 8" feet. All were set free, but Corrie's family went to prison near the Hague.

Every few years I read The Hiding Place. It is the story of an endlessly fascinating person to me: Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian Dutch woman who was a clockmaker by trade, but helped to save 800 Jews during the Dutch Resistance in World War II. It is a book that resonated with me as a teenager, and in many chapters of my life since then. Corrie was an ordinary woman who resolutely chooses to rescue, to do good--even if it meant the possibility of going to a concentration camp or being beaten by Nazi interrogators. Now decades later, I am the same age as Corrie was when she came home from the concentration camp, miraculously being saved due to a a clerical error. Her decision to not only ostensibly save people, at first her neighbors and then strangers, but then to tell the world how her "living faith" was shaped, continues to move me.

The Ten Boom Museum and Watch store in Haarlem, Netherlands today
A few days ago I was in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and took a short train trip to Haarlem to visit Corrie's home. The first floor is still a watch and clock repair store, with three levels of stairs above the watch business. It was the perfect house for a hiding place; the passages link around like a rabbits's burrow. Corrie's bedroom, the smallest room from the front door, was "the hiding place." Upon entering the floors upstairs, you can hardly not do some soul searching. What side would I have leaned if I had lived in the Netherlands at this time? What choices would I have made? Would my choices be comprised by a "living faith"?


Sometimes when we reread or hear a true story several times, we forget that people made decisions without knowing the outcome of their choices. We, the hearer of the story, know the ending, sometimes in scrupulous, familiar detail. With each retelling, it is embedded more in our psyche. But to a person in a real life setting, where decisions are made with cautious deliberation and fear of danger, the ending is unknown. Important choices are sometimes made in a fog--not knowing when and if the clouds will lift. Corrie's choice to hide Jews and people working in the Dutch resistance, get ration books for Jews, and live a life of commotion and insecurity stir me. With the Nazi occupation in Holland already swallowing any normality or most daily joys, Corrie chose to rescue in very uncertain times. She choose what she believed was good, moral, right--without knowing the ending of her story.

What was the ending of her story? Her 84 year old father died ten days after they were arrested in a prison near The Hague. Her sister, Betsy, whom she loved and revered, died in a concentration camp about two weeks before Corrie was miraculously given her freedom. Some of Betsy's last words to Corrie in the concentration camp where she died were, "There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." And then she said, "Go and tell people about what we have experienced, Corrie." Corrie Ten Boom spent the next almost 40 years explaining her "living faith."

Corrie Ten Boom died on April 15, 1983 at age 91 years old. She was born also on April 15. According to Jewish lore, only a tremendously special person is born and dies on the same day.


My Life is But a Weaving 

My life is but a weaving, between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors He weaveth steadily.
Oft' times he weaveth sorrow, and I in my foolish pride, 
forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.

Not 'til the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly, 
Will God unroll the canvas, and reveal the reasons why.
The dark threads are as needful, in the weaver's skillful hands, 
as the thread of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares, nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those who leave the choice to Him.
                              --By Corrie Ten Boom



On one side of the stitching shows all the loose strings, and a matted mess. This was a tapestry that Corrie often shared with others, and liked to see the reaction when she turned it over to show them the other side. (Pictured below)
If you flip the needle work over, you see a glorious crown with a jewel on top. The tapestry she showed often to remind people that our experiences, both painful and joyous, are all woven into our individual canvas. Sometimes we don't know the reason for the delays or sorrows, but someday we will understand the Master Weaver's stitches in our lives.

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