There are some books you shouldn’t read in public unless you don’t mind crying out your eyeballs in front of strangers. Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place is one of those books.
Four weeks ago, I invited you to join me in reading The Hiding Place and planned to read it myself on a cross-country flight. Even the first two chapters forced me to stifle tears, and I only dared read part of it on the plane, stopping after I pressed against the window to sob quietly. I saved the rest of the book for home, reading it only in daytime, as if the only way my heart could absorb what I was reading was to have the sunlight as company for the dark pages.
The Hiding Place is equal parts hope and despair, a study in the depths of human capacity for cruelty and depravity but also a testament to the power of God to work in and through the lives of faithful servants.
Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsie had a pure, unfailing joy to her faith that many of us may find unimaginable in those circumstances. I think my own faith is more like Corrie’s than Betsie’s. I chuckled and commiserated with Corrie when Betsie forced her to thank God for the fleas in their barracks in Ravensbruck.
On the day of Holland’s surrender, the ten Booms found themselves at the foot of a beautiful wild cherry tree known as the Bride of Haarlem because of its glorious white petals each spring. This tree—just like too many humans—lost its life to the war, cut down for the firewood it could provide. It was not a great loss compared to the scale of human loss Corrie ten Boom witnessed and shared in these pages, but the loss of the tree compounded my sadness.
After the war, Corrie brought to life her sister’s vision of a healing place, a home with gardens, for war victims. She wrote of the healing power of working in the garden—with its flowers and vegetables—to encourage recovering victims of the war to think less of the bitter past and more of a hopeful future. For them, the act of gardening opened up paths toward forgiveness and wholeness.
Aha! I thought. The idea took root in my own heart, and despite too much travel this month and too little rain, my husband and I have been dreaming of a new little front yard garden to replace our cherry trees that had to come down earlier this year. (Not victims of war as the Bride of Haarlem, but victims of poor decisions on the part of whoever planted them.)
The dream of a garden keeps my husband and me rooted here, connected to a place and dreaming of a future there.
Garden dreams open us all to healing and hope and looking ahead to a time we imagine will be better than the past we’re leaving behind. I’m grateful to Corrie and Betsie ten Boom for the reminder. It’s time to plunge my hands in the dirt.
Have you read The Hiding Place?
Did you read it along with me this past month, or have you read it previously? I’d love to have a book discussion in the comments below. Here are a few questions to get us started. Feel free to ask additional questions in your response:
- What has stayed with you from the book?
- Do you think you could be as brave as the ten Booms in similar circumstances?
- Do you identify more with Corrie or Betsie in their approach to faith?
- Did the book change you in any way?