Book Club: The Hiding Place

My daughter and I just finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, which is the June Book Selection for the Bodacious Bloggity Book Club at Marathon Bird. Today EH and I each share our impressions for the discussion.

Every step in life opens into a future of uncertainty. Some of the experiences brighten us with pleasure, others hurl horrific happenings toward us and some seem to have no consequence beyond that day. The future of Corrie ten Boom’s world, like all of ours, was unknown. Yet, in her youth and early adulthood the daily faith of her family prepared her to meet the destructive forces of World War II when they reached her country and her own family with compassion and courage.

One of my favorite examples is of her wise father’s response to Corrie’s questions about sex. They were riding the train. He set his heavy bag in front of her and asked her to carry it off the train. When she said she couldn’t, he taught her this parallel truth. He said,

It would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.

Corrie’s father is not only giving an appropriate answer to his child but teaching her a pattern of faith. He is saying, “trust me with your unknown questions and fears,” just as she later applies that pattern to faith in God during her loneliest and most disheartening moments.

Now that my own daughter is “older and stronger” to bear some of the weight of these historical events, I invited her to share this book club discussion with me. She said:

The Hiding Place, the story of Corrie ten Boom, is a remarkable one. Through her many struggles of hiding Jews in her family home, she learns from her sister how to have faith in God. After being sent to Ravensbruck and being shown where they were to sleep, a smelly, straw-covered platform covered in fleas, occupied by seven other women, almost the first thing they did was pray. Not in sorrow, asking to get out of their situation, but thanks. Thanks for everything, including the fleas.

As Corrie remarked to her sister, “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

Her reply was profound. “‘Give thanks in all circumstances,'” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” When, during their daily Bible studies with the other women in the barracks, they realize that their area is rarely patrolled, Betsie finds out that it is because of all the fleas that the guards avoid the place.

Other miracles abound as Corrie’s faith grows. The vitamin oil that she snuck in for her sister continued to produce oil, even after Betsie had passed it around to so many others. When they received vitamins from a friend who worked in the hospital in the camp, the oil stopped coming out.

I read the story of Anne Frank in school, and even though I knew it had actually happened, it didn’t seem as real to me. Then I read this book, and it seemed real. It took me a little while to figure out why. Her faith, so similar to my own, allowed me to compare my life to Corrie’s.

I learned from Corrie’s story, like my daughter, by comparing it to my own life. Despite the crimes committed against her, her sister and many others, she continued to identify and strive to correct her personal weaknesses like selfishness. Ironically, her tragic circumstances of the concentration camp magnified her understanding of the biblical account of the apostle Paul’s own “thorn in the flesh.” Through that comparison she learned this truth:

The real sin I had been committing was not that of inching toward the center of the platoon because I was cold. The real sin lay in thinking that any power to help and transform came from me. Of course it was not my wholeness, but Christ’s that made the difference.

Corrie’s faith prepared her. Her adversity transformed her. That purifying process took place not in an idyllic setting but one of the most cruel. Most of our lives are not idyllic nor horrid but the reality of them presses upon us the same opportunities to meet them with faith to live and love.

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3 Comments

  1. FamilyFunandFaith
    Jun 25, 2008

    The imagery of the bag too heavy was an excellent response by Corrie’s dad and one she used perfectly in telling her story! I enjoyed your post!

  2. Rebecca
    Jun 25, 2008

    I read this book when I was a teenager and was struck by the same parts as your daughter, especially Betsie’s thankfulness for the fleas. Betsie was a remarkable person and taught so much through her extreme trials.

  3. Holly
    Jun 25, 2008

    Corrie and Betsie’s faith and thankfulness in all of their horrible circumstances, even the fleas, was so inspiring. So many times situations can be improved just by a shift in perspective.

    So glad you and your daughter read this together. I enjoyed her comments as well–and was glad she was able to relate to Corrie’s story.

    You have a wonderful way with words.

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