I was surprised by this book. Humbled by it, moved by it, inspired by it also.
As many of you will know, Corrie Ten Boom writes a memoir of her time in WW2, risking everything in her life in Holland for the sake of others, and for God’s love. Putting fear of the danger and threat from the Nazis aside, Corrie, Betsie and their family take in Jewish men, women and children, giving out food, helping people to new homes, and sheltering them in their own.
When they are eventually captured and taken into concentration camps, they still do not lose hope. Even when offered with a chance to go home, Casper Boom courageously tells the German that tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.
When in the concentration camp Corrie and Betsie are taken to a small, cold, decrepit room with hundreds of others. Betsie excitedly exclaims that they must thank God for what they have. Including the fleas. Give thanks in all circumstances, says Betsie, quoting from 1 Thessalonians. Give thanks in all circumstances. Corrie: this time I was sure Betsie was wrong. Several weeks later Betsie is grinning at Corrie, looking extremely pleased with herself. And Betsie, almost jumping up and down with glee, exclaims that the reason they get enough privacy for Bible study and talking amongst one another, is because the guards don’t want to have the fleas crawling on them. And Corrie thanks God for all creatures… including the ones she saw no use for.
Betsie throughout Corrie’s testimonial continues every day to pray for opportunities to show the Germans love. To show them that love is greater.
Further down the line Corrie, as she begins to tell her life story to the world, shakes hands with a German soldier who had been there in the camp with her, attempting to make many lives (including hers) miserable.
It was at a church service in Munich that I first saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sin away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
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.
This book is shouting out: Remember what we can do when we live in God’s love. Remember what we can do when we live with God’s forgiveness. Remember that there are no ‘ifs’ in God’s kingdom. But only time, events, and the certain truth. The truth that we are children of the same Father. United. Even in the times that seem darkest of all.
Shine as a light in the world, to the glory of God the Father.
Shine, and Love.