"The Hiding Place": No Pit So Deep

There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still. ~ Corrie ten Boom

The Hiding PlaceThe Hiding Place
By Corrie ten Boom with John Sherrill and Elizabeth Sherrill
272 pages
Chosen Press

It is appropriate that during Lent, when the depth of God's love is the lesson made plain to us, The Hiding Place came to my attention; it contains vivid examples of God's deep love set in a story of man's inhumanity to man.

I read The Hiding Place in high school, so it was with a sense of nostalgia for an excellent "holocaust survival autobiography" and the vague memory of a few key inspirational passages that I downloaded it as the  free April audiobook from christianaudio.com. In fact, I believed I remembered it so well that I only began listening from curiosity, to see how the narration sounded.

I soon realized my memory was severely at fault as the honest and beautiful story unfolded. I was completely absorbed, and listened in every spare moment.

The Hiding Place begins in 1937, in Haarlem, Holland, with preparations for the one hundredth anniversary celebration of the ten Boom family's clock shop. The story is told by Corrie ten Boom who is the then-45-year-old youngest daughter of the family. She and her sister, Betsie, who is seven years older, are spinsters living with their elderly father. As such, they make an unlikely pair of heroines but God does not see with our eyes, as their tale tells.

The early pages of the book reveal a family truly living a Christian life, with a soup kettle always bubbling to feed the poor, numerous foster-children raised, and a challenging extended family borne with patiently. Corrie's father, Casper, keeps Christ at the center of their lives. His gentleness, rooted in strength and wisdom, serves as a Christ-like example. Several instances of her father's guidance become touchstones throughout Corrie's life, as in this childhood recollection:

And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sex-sin?"

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.

"Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

"It's too heavy," I said.

"Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."

Corrie's sister, Betsie, is often a source of much needed Christ-like perspectives. When Corrie is troubled by a premonition of being taken from Haarlem against her will, she consults Betsie, who tells her:

If God has shown us bad times ahead, it's enough for me that He knows about them. That's why He sometimes shows us things, you know -- to tell us that this too is in His hands.

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."

4/13/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Julie Davis
    About Julie Davis
    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