He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. ~Psalm 91:1
Even before my sweet grandmother became ill and eventually went home to be with the Lord, she gave me two worn, paperback autobiographies. I remember my grandmother telling me stories about Corrie ten Boom and the honor I felt to receive these books about her life. More than ten years later, I have finally taken the time to read through them both. Now I know why she spoke so fondly as I have now been personally encouraged by the courageous life of this simple woman from Holland.
The Hiding Place is Corrie's retelling of her life growing up in a quaint Dutch town as the daughter of a watchmaker, and provides vivid detail of the night when everything changed forever. The ten Booms were some of the few Christians who hid Jewish families in their home, including a widespread networking system with other safe houses. The number of those hidden across the network was upwards of 800 by the time men from Hitler's regime broke down the door of the ten Booms' home and dragged them away to certain death in German concentration camps. Corrie tells of the heartache when she received news by word of mouth that her father did not last ten days, and I was then brought to tears as she described the experience of witnessing her sister Betsie also pass away. Corrie was finally released after spending roughly three years in several concentration camps. She did not find out until many months had passed, beyond the final liberation of these prisons, that she was released due to a clerical error. Corrie ten Boom was not supposed to leave the doom of the German camp that day. Less than a week after she walked outside the gates in freedom, all adults of her age group were sent to the gas chambers. In the sovereign plan of her Maker, she was supposed to leave that day, for He had more in mind for her life than she could have even remotely comprehended.
One of the most vivid memories I have from my time in Israel as a youth was that of the Jewish Holocaust museum we visited. Outside the building was a garden scattered with trees, each one marked by a humble nameplate on the ground. There was a particular tree I passed by which was planted in memory of Corrie ten Boom. Our guide for the museum tour explained to us the incredible impact this woman had on thousands of people to the extent that this tree stands in her honor. Amidst all of the famous names of great leaders from that horrific time in history, that of the watchmaker's daughter is remembered and deeply treasured.
Corrie ten Boom did not claim anything about which she could boast. Her only claim in life was that she was bought, was spared, and persevered because of the blood of Jesus Christ. This was her fuel upon leaving the concentration camp and following the path that would lead her all around the world in the years to come. She left knowing that she had no strength of her own, but that in her weakness Christ would be proclaimed. Corrie was still traveling to all corners of the world well into her 80s, including Germany. In the sequel to The Hiding Place, Tramp for the Lord, she candidly tells of the great pain she experienced knowing that she was called to forgive those who had persecuted her to the very threat of death. Only by God's grace was she able to stand before her captors and tell them with all sincerity of God's forgiveness.
The lessons learned from a woman such as Corrie ten Boom are astounding and much more room would be needed in order to fully elaborate on the encouragement I received from reading her story. She is an example of why we should regularly read on the lives of those who have gone before us. Such individuals were not giants among men according to human standards. Corrie was a simple woman, sometimes envious of her sister's beauty, often sighing over her own awkwardness, in the habit of admitting that she was a sinner in the hands of a loving and merciful Lord. During a particular interview (one of many) conducted in 1974, Corrie was asked, "What was it that got you through the dark nights?" Her response: "It wasn't what, it was Who got me through."