Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sage Wisdom about Forgiveness from Corrie ten Boom

At the age of eight, I vividly remember standing in line for hours at the Eric Theater in my home town, waiting to be seated at the premiere of the film adaptation of Corrie ten Boom's, The Hiding Place. A few years ago, I met someone who was my age who had never heard of Corrie or the film, otherwise I would feel no need to introduce her. But it's been a few years – almost forty – since that film opened, and I fear that a generation of people may not know anything about her. I consider her influence through her books, film, sermons, and testimonies to be among the greatest in my early life.

Corrie was the daughter of a watchmaker in Holland in the 1940s, and she and her siblings worked for and lived with their father there. As the Nazis began to round up the Jews to first ship them out to the ghettos and then to the prison camps, Corrie's father protests. At one notable point in the book (and the film), he puts a Star of David on his sleeve along with the Jews. But his family soon decides to take a more concrete role in standing by the Jews when a family comes to her door, and they construct a secret room in Corrie's bedroom to hide them. (“God's people are always welcome in this home,” says Papa, the devout Christian.) Before an informant turns the family in, Corrie becomes quite the bold activist, helping Jews to get rations cards in addition to helping the family hidden in her home.

Though her family is arrested, her brother, one sister, and her cousin are released and resume care of the couple that remain hidden behind the wall that they built. Corrie's father dies within a few days at the prison at Scheveningen where they are first taken, and then, Corrie and her sister Betsie are sent first to the Vulght prison camp in Holland and then on to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women in Germany. Her family manages to send letters to her in prison with secret notes written underneath the stamps on the envelopes, indicating that the Jews are still safely surviving behind the wall in her bedroom back in Holland. Though her sister Betsie dies in the death camp, she's able to encourage her in the virtues of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness, despite their plight.

Just a few days before the new year in 1945, Corrie lives to be released from Ravensbrück due to a clerical error, after which, all of the women her age were killed. In 1946, she travels back to Germany and begins speaking about her experience. The forgiveness in which her sister encouraged her becomes the central theme of her Christian ministry of evangelism which she continued until 1978 when her health declined. Before her death in 1983, the Nation of Israel titled her as Righteous Among the Nations, an honor bestowed upon those who risked their lives to help the Jewish People during World War II, and she is the author of a great many books about many of her experiences.

Below, I've listed some of her more moving and inspiring quotes and messages, but above all, I remember her powerful statement that “There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.” If you've never heard Corrie before, or if you haven't listened to one of her messages in awhile, I invite you to view the video below.

The 1975 major motion picture, also entitled The Hiding Place staring actress Julie Harris, can be rented from Netflix and Blockbuster. (I've not yet seen it offered as a streaming feature.) It can also be purchased for a nominal fee at Amazon and through CBD.

7Feb13 Addendum:  A reader informed me that you can watch The Hiding Place in its entirety on YouTube, and it's also posted in sections as well.  Sometimes that type of content tends to disappear (due to copyright issues), but currently, it is available for free viewing HERE.  (It's well worth owning a copy, however.)

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”

“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....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....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.”

Corrie on Reconciliation

It was 1947, and I’d come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth that they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.

When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, ’NO FISHING ALLOWED.’”

Making Peace with a Ravensbrück Prison Guard

"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard there." No, he did not remember me. "But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,"—again the hand came out—"will you forgive me?"

And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart.

But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling." And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust out my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!" For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit. (pp 55-58)

The final post in this series on forgiveness,
soon to follow,
features a book and resource list.