Original artwork “The Lord is a Shelter” is available here
“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge” (Psalm 16:1)
What does a fifty-two year old Dutch woman have to teach me about faith? A lot more than I realized. A spinster, a watchmaker, living an unremarkable life in a quaint little home in Holland. On the edge of greatness, and didn’t even know it.
Corrie Ten Boom. Emphasis on the “BOOM”. Talk about a life with impact.
Leader of a secret operation to aid the persecuted Jews when Germany invaded Holland. She simply did what was right when the hour of evil descended upon her unsuspecting life. She took a bold stand, on a rim-wheeled bicycle, riding secretly through uneven, cobblestone streets, at age fifty-two. I don’t know why her age seems so significant, but it does to me. The risks she took. The dangerous nature of the whole thing. Secretly moving about, under the cover of darkness, arranging safe passage for colleagues, friends, neighbors, and strangers. She didn’t go looking for it; she was called to it. Appointed to the hour, by God Himself.
If I had another daughter, I would name her Corrie. I am serious. Her story is incredible. Amazing. If you haven’t read The Hiding Place , order it immediately. Like today. Trust me, you will never be the same. As you can see, I am still not over the impact she has had on my life and faith. I wonder, if the Nazis had invaded my town, how would I have responded? Would I have had the courage to act like Corrie and her family did? Look at pictures of her. Google: Corrie Ten Boom, and you will see, my grandma. She looks like my grandma. And this woman was the ringleader of an elaborate, underground network for hiding Jews. Secret rooms, coded messages, practice drills to hide the Jews living in her home – in under two minutes. They had to think of everything – place settings, ashtrays, articles of clothing – no trace of the Jews could be seen. Their very lives were at risk. Everyday. This family, thrust into difficult and unwelcome circumstances, made a choice. In her own words, “This is evil’s hour, we shall not run from it …despite the risk and danger, we had no choice but to move forward”.
And they lost so much.
Her father died ten days after the arrest. She last saw him in a holding room at the police station, where everyone gathered around him to hear the evening Word and prayer, like they had for years at home. He stood and nobly declared, “Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in Thy word” (Psalm 119:114, KJV). Corrie took this Word to heart, and carried it with her through the living hell to follow. Her father died alone in a hospital corridor; his body buried in an unmarked grave.
Corrie was taken to a prison, and later to a concentration camp in Germany – “the land of their fears” in her words. She spent months in solitary confinement, and was subject to cruel, inhumane conditions, and treatment. Unspeakable filth and evil. I cannot imagine enduring one hour of what she went through. She watched her sister, Betsie, suffer, grow weak, and die there.
Her story of how she and Betsie ministered to the other women at Ravensbruck is amazing, but that’s not the most amazing part. What completely unravels me about Corrie Ten Boom is what she did after her release. One week after, she began to travel, speak, and share a message of God’s love and forgiveness, and she spent the next thirty plus years doing this all over the world. Did I mention she didn’t start until her mid-fifties?! One week later. So much pain, loss, physical healing needed. Much less the bitterness and resentment at what she had been through. But again, she made a choice. Corrie rose up from the ashes of it all, and made the most beautiful life for God I have ever seen. Ever. In my whole life. If you want to know how to glorify God, look at Corrie Ten Boom’s life. Read Tramp for the Lord too while you are at it. Crazy. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.
From her life, I am learning what it means to be a pilgrim in this world. How quickly our circumstances can change; our comforts stripped away. How abruptly a season can change on us. We must learn to hold loosely all that we hold dear; becoming detached on the inside, with hearts and minds set above. This is the truth of a “life now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). And this is the only explanation for Corrie Ten Boom’s life: her response to the atrocity of Nazi Germany, the personal suffering and loss she endured, and what she did with the rest of her life afterward. Corrie had found her hiding place in the Lord. God is the only reasonable explanation. He was her hiding place: shelter, protection, and shield. Corrie, the refugee taken from home, had fled to her God; longing for a better country, and the inheritance kept in heaven for her that can never perish, spoil, or fade. She set her hope on God, and rested safely in His everlasting arms. Corrie laid down all of her earthly treasures and stored up treasure in heaven – a stockpile, in fact. I just know her crown has extra jewels, and she deserves each and every single one.
Corrie spoke about the duality of her life in the concentration camp, “Life in Ravenbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory”.
This is the hidden life on a pilgrimage to God. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca (trouble), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:5-7).
I am so grateful for the life and lessons of Corrie Ten Boom. I can only hope to honor God with my life in whatever circumstances He allows, by trusting Him to turn the ashes into beauty and glory. Corrie proves that God can (and does) use anyone. Never underestimate a middle-aged woman on a bicycle either. She just may prove to be the most genuine Christian witness the world has ever seen.