Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Hiding Place: It is All of Our Stories

We were living in Houston in the mid-1970s when I first heard of Corrie ten Boom and the story she had to tell in The Hiding Place. The book had been recently published, and a movie of the same title was released in 1975. It starred Jeannette Clift as Corrie, Julie Harris as her sister Betsie, and Arthur O’Connell as their father. I read the book but didn’t see the movie.

Forty years later, the story has stood the test of time. It is still a good story. It is still a heartbreaking story. And it is a story that keeps begging the question, what would I do in their situation? What question the story does not beg is could this happen here?

The answer to the second question is obvious – yes, it or something like it could happen here. Never underestimate the darkness of the human heart. We saw the same human lunge toward evil on Sept. 11, 2001. We see it in Syria and Iraq and Libya. We saw it in the killing fields of Cambodia, and with the tribal warfare in Rwanda, and in Bosnia. But this isn’t a problem limited to radical Islam or people in faraway countries. The same desire for authoritarian power and control can be seen all too close to home, and it isn’t an impulse limited only to governments.

In the Epilogue to the book, we read that Corrie and her family learn that her teenaged nephew Kik died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He was caught helping an American parachutist escape to the Dutch coast. In 1959, Corrie herself returned to the Ravensbruck camp, where she was imprisoned and where Betsie died. And she learned something both familiar and profound. A Nazi guard or commandant or functionary had mistakenly released her late in 1944. She was supposed to have been killed with all of the other women her age the following week, but someone had made a clerical error.

A bureaucratic mistake.

Or the hand of God.

Perhaps both.

We often hear people ask, if there is a God, how could he allow so much evil in the world? The real, and perhaps surprising, question should be, why isn’t there more evil than what we see? My answer to that age-old question is simple: if there was no God, if there is no God, then our world at best would look much like what Corrie ten Boom experienced during World War II. That impulse to evil exists within each of us.

What also exists within each of us is the impulse to reach for God.

The Hiding Place is the two of two sisters in a small city in Holland, caught up in a gigantic turn of history. Because of their faith in God, they embark upon a course of helping Jews hide and escape from the Nazis. That course eventually leads to their arrest. Betsie comes through the story as something of a saint, the believer giving thanks in all things, in all circumstances. Corrie questions and kicks against what happens. She is the most recognizable of the two, the most familiar, at least to me. She gets angry at God, she shakes her fist at him, she refuses to believe that she should give thanks for fleas, of all things.

Corrie survives the horror of imprisonment and the concentration camp. She survived with a purpose. She knew what God would have her do. And her path started with forgiveness, as difficult as it was.

In so many ways, the story of Corrie ten Boom is all of our stories. Perhaps not as extreme, bit it is – and can be – our stories.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we've been reading The Hiding Place. This concludes the discussion. To see more posts, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph: A scene from the 1975 movie The Hiding Place, with Julie Harris as Betsie (left) and Jeannette Clift as Corrie (right).


jasonS said...

I plan on watching the movie now that I've finished the book mostly because I'm curious how it turned out and if it resonates the same way. And I think you're right--this is a story lived out in extreme circumstances but it is what we all go through in a manner of speaking. Maybe that's why it's such a powerful book that's stood the test of time. I've enjoyed these discussions, Glynn! Thank you so much for being a part.

Doug Spurling said...

It's a bitter-sweet ever green in black & white heart wrenching story closer to home than we want to believe. Thanks Glynn.