The winds of change are underway in the United States, and yet, for most of us, life goes on each day as normal. The change is happening across most of society – economic, social, educational, religious, national, and local. Like most change, it began almost without notice, although the critical period was likely the 1960s.
While it’s easy to point to the Beatles, the sexual revolution, three assassinations, the Great Society, college protests, the explosion of the drug culture, and other headline-grabbing events as examples of the change, the fact is that not all of what happened was bad. Some of it was good, and necessary, like the civil rights movement. And for many people, perhaps most, the change didn’t immediately affect them, but came only years and decades later.
So it must have seemed in countries like Holland, Belgium, Poland, France, and the United Kingdom in the 1930s. The world as it had been known had shifted dramatically with World War I – whole empires had been swept away, new countries carved from them, millions of people killed. And then came the Great Depression, which Europe struggled with as much as the United States.
In 1937 on a quiet street in Haarlem in Holland, Ten Boom Watches celebrated its 100 anniversary in business. It was a joyful occasion for the Ten Boom family, the neighborhood and the community. The business was something of a local institution; the business had been started in 1837 by the father of Corrie Ten Boom’s father, “the grand old man of Haarlem,” as he was known.
There were flowers, lots of flowers, for this was Europe, after all, and Europe loves flowers. And food. And visits by relatives and neighbors. This was life, normal everyday life, marked by a special occasion like a business anniversary.
Signs of change were becoming a little visible, even on that street in Haarlem. Jewish refugees were arriving or passing through from Germany. Watch suppliers in Germany, who made some of the best watches in the world, were no longer shipping to Ten Boom Watches. They were mostly owned by Jewish families, and life was changing drastically for Germany’s Jews.
But despite these occasional shadows, in Holland, quiet and picturesque Holland, normal life continued, the life families like the Ten Booms had known for much of their lifetimes. (And Holland had not been a party on either side to World War I.)
“I know that the experiences of our lives,” writes Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place, “when we let God use them, become the mysterious preparation for the work He will give us to do. But I did not know that then.”
The change would come to that street in Haarlem, and to that little shop known as Ten Boom Watches. And the wind would become a whirlwind.
So, too, we are prepared – mysteriously – with the routine of the everyday for the work He will give us to do.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re beginning a discussion of The Hiding Place. I first (and last) read it four decades ago, and I’m looking forward to read it again. Consider reading along; you can see other posts on this first chapter, “The One Hundredth Birthday Party,” by visiting Sarah at Living Between the Lines.
Top photograph: The Ten Boom sisters: Betsie, Corrie and Nollie as young girls. Bottom photograph: The Ten Boom shop and house in Haarlem, now a museum.