I’m still going over The Hiding Place. The principles I want to cover in this article are perhaps the hardest to live. I want to open with a thought. The Ten Booms were ordinary people, but they involved their faith in everything, and it made them extraordinary. Greatness comes with faith, but it comes when you’re not looking. You’ll be the last to see it. Corrie never thought she was super special.
Now for the most remarkable thing about their story:
In the second prison Corrie learned the name of the man who’d betrayed them. She says, “Flames of fire seemed to leap around that name in my heart. I thought of Father’s final hours, alone and confused, in a hospital corridor. Of the underground work so abruptly halted. I thought of Mary Itallie arrested while walking down the street. And I knew that if Jan Vogel stood in front of me now I could kill him.” The life dropped out of her spiritual existence. She worked herself into “a sickness of body and spirit.” She told a prison friend about it all, was only too happy to. She was puzzled by Betsie’s seemingly unchanged attitude. Finally one night she asked, “Betsie, don’t you feel anything about Jan Vogel? Doesn’t it bother you?” “Oh, yes, Corrie! Terribly! I’ve felt for him ever since I knew–and pray for him whenever his name comes into my mind. How dreadfully he must be suffering!” Corrie goes on to say, “For a long time I lay silent in the huge shadowy barracks restless with the sighs, snores, and stirrings of hundreds of women. Once again I had the feeling that this sister with whom I had spent all my life belonged somehow to another order of beings. Wasn’t she telling me in her gentle way that I was as guilty as Jan Vogel? Didn’t he and I stand together before an all-seeing God convicted of the same sin of murder? For I had murdered him with my heart and with my tongue. ‘Lord Jesus,” I whispered into the lumpy ticking of the bed, ‘I forgive Jon Vogel as I pray that you will forgive me. I have done him great damage. Bless him now, and his family…’ That night for the first time since our betrayer had a name I slept deep and dreamlessly until the whistle summoned us to roll call.”
How do you forgive on such a scale? Later, out of prison and speaking in Germany, Corrie met one of the guards from her prison. “And suddenly it was all there–the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’ His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me. I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I couldn’t. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him. While into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.”
I wonder if I could be so humble, or forgive so thoroughly. I know that we are made ready for any trial that we need to face. We are fully equipped. Though the choice of whether or not to “train” is ours. Corrie and Betsie trained all their lives. They were raised on the Bible and church and they did things out of faith all their lives. Whether you agree with such a life style or not, it clearly does something. But the sisters would never want us to give them credit so it’s only fair to them that I say it really wasn’t them.