A Free Mind
"The Hiding Place": No Pit So Deep
That trust is soon tested as the Nazis conquer Holland. When a well-dressed woman with a suitcase in hand appears at the shop's front door saying that she is a Jew afraid of being arrested, she is welcomed by Casper, "In this household, God's people are always welcome."
Thus begins the ten Boom family's surprising involvement in the Dutch underground.
Corrie soon finds herself the leader of one of the largest resistance groups in the city, centered at their home. She shares engrossing details about how the family eluded detection, managing to feed and house Jewish refugees until they could be spirited to safety. However, such a large operation made it inevitable that there would be a slip-up, and eventually the family is arrested.
From that point, the story reads like Dante's descent into the circles of Hell. The two middle-aged sisters are moved from one prison to another, each worse than the one before. It is during this point, however, that God makes His presence unmistakably known. As Corrie says in the movie made from the book, "God does not have problems. Only plans."
This revelation lifts The Hiding Place above other holocaust stories. Although the sisters suffer immense indignities and hardships, their story is about God's triumph over evil, even in the midst of the very place where evil reigns. They do not perform what we might think of as heroic acts, yet as Corrie and Betsie persevere in their efforts to stay in the center of God's will, they make it possible for God to work through them.
In fact, it is in their very powerlessness that they reveal God to others as their plight continues.
I was struck by the timelessness of the message and the values contained therein. Casper ten Boom models God the Father for his children, and those with good fathers recognize how powerful that can be. Those of us who were not so blessed can recognize in this hero a model of God the Father that we can relate to and call our own. Their mother, though not a key figure in the story, is instrumental in showing how it is possible to live a fully Christian life when home caring for a family, or when stricken by illness.
Betsie's point of view displays a Christ-like love for their captors even under the most terrible circumstances. Corrie is the example for the rest of us. She is uncertain, afraid, and needs the examples of Betsie and her father to keep her eyes on Christ. Even so, Corrie steps out in faith throughout the book whenever there is a need.
The Hiding Place also serves as a warning. I was quite surprised at how certain attitudes portrayed in the book resonated with our times; the Nazis showed utter disdain of the elderly, the very sick, and "feeble minded" because they were not productive members of society. If the ten Booms couldn't comprehend such attitudes, I realized with chagrin I understood them all-too-well as the utilitarian ideas of our "modern" society. As Flannery O'Connor said,
If you live today, you breathe in nihilism . . . it's the gas you breathe. If I hadn't had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now.
When I began telling people about this audiobook, I was surprised at how many people had never heard of The Hiding Place. Many others, like me, believe they remember it well, despite having read it many years ago. Even if you know and love the book well, I encourage you to take advantage of christianaudio's free download. Narrator Bernadette Dunne brings Corrie to life in a matter-of-fact but sympathetic reading.
We could do with a revival of The Hiding Place on American bookshelves. Not only does this story remind us that God is with us always but it shows where we may find ourselves, if we do not heed His will. We will be in a very unsafe place where there is no hiding at all.
Julie Davis blogs about it at Happy Catholic and discusses both books and movies at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Her new book is Happy Catholic, published by Servant Publishing. Follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook