I was in third grade. Our class had an elderly, rather strict teacher who was nearing retirement and not prone to any kind of disobedience. We had received our textbooks, and there was one, a reader, which the teacher said could only be used in the classroom – it couldn’t leave the room.
A few months later, at the end of the school day, I hurriedly packed my knapsack (the forerunner to the backpack); the teacher had kept us late and the carpool was waiting, with a driver who was as much a stickler for being on time as my teacher was for obedience. When I got home, I discovered I had done the unthinkable: I had accidentally grabbed the reader with my other books and shoved it into my bag.
I was terrified.
An adult would shrug it off. An 8-year-old child scared to death of his teacher began to imagine all kinds of dire consequences.
What if she had checked our desks after we had left? What if she did a spot check of our knapsacks and book bags as we arrived the next morning (she did that occasionally)?
And it was a Friday – with an entire weekend of worry awaiting me before I returned to school on Monday.
That evening, my parents went to a local production of the musical The Music Man and took me with them. I was nearly sick with apprehension. I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. I had said nothing to my parents.
It was experience – a short one, to be sure – of living with fear.
In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom describes what it was like to live with fear for years. During World War II, she and her family were helping Jews escape from Nazi-occupied Haarlem in The Netherlands; in some cases, they had Jews living with them and hidden within their combination home and watch shop. A secret compartment had been constructed to allow access to hiding in the event of a raid. And the possibility of that happening grew with each passing day and month, as the underground network the ten Booms were connected to grew and spread.
Mealtimes were especially worrisome, ten Boom says. People walking by the shop could see right through the windows. A white curtain helped, but she only felt secure at night, when the blackout curtains were in place.
Friends and relatives who knew what the ten Booms were doing could be and often were arrested. And the police would come in, forcing the family to develop tactics that were delaying without looking like delaying.
Exposure and arrest could come at any time.
Still, the ten Booms didn’t stop what they were doing. They believed they were doing God’s work, protecting the defenseless and the people who were God’s original chosen. Their hearts and their faith continued to more than balance their fears.
The story of the ten Booms is an incredible testimony – people living out their faith in the face of tyranny, fear and arrest at any moment.
My accidentally-taken-home book pales in comparison, but the fear was real enough – enough that I still remember my anxiety. On that Monday morning, sick to my stomach, I could eat very little breakfast. I had formulated a plan. When the bell rang, I would walk into the classroom, hope for no book bag checks, and go to my desk, quietly putting my books away with the offending reader stacked among them.
My plan worked. The teacher was late, and too harried to bother checking our bags. No one, including the girl sitting across from who loved to tattle on everyone in the class, noticed. I behaved normally. And avoided what I imagined to be nothing short of being handcuffed and taken to jail.
The ten Booms faced down a worse fear, a real fear, every day. But the storm was coming.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Hiding Place. To see more posts on this chapter, “Storm Clouds Gather,” please visit Sarah at Living Between theLines.
Photograph by Michal Spisak via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.