Saturday, June 6, 2009
The Bus Fare
Years ago I thoroughly enjoyed reading "The Hiding Place" and "Tramp for the Lord", books written by Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) and telling of her itinerant life both during and after the Second World War.
Her family of clock-makers in Holland were arrested by the Nazis for harbouring Jewish people in their home. In the camp Corrie proved a real blessing to the women around her, conducting Bible studies and talking through problems. Her sister became ill and was denied crucial medical care. Corrie remembers discovering her dead body stacked with others like so much cord-wood. In the closing days of the war Corrie miraculously escaped one final truckload of prisoners destined for the gas ovens.
In the post-war years she became convinced that her major purpose was to assist in establishing forgiveness, trust and cooperation between the ravaged peoples of Europe. Upon simple invitations she travelled extensively to tell her story in small community halls, hospitals and churches. Jesus had been her hiding place.
Arrangements always seemed to be last-minute and Corrie would jokingly tell friends that "God never provided the bus fare until she was about ready to take the trip."
How often have I thought of this quaint saying when considering an imminent trial, challenge or difficulty. Corrie's experience and wisdom have helped.
The story is also told of her visit to a crippled patient in a hospital ward. Anger and self-pity consumed the man. He would hear none of her Jesus. Undeterred, Corrie reached into her purse and produced a nearly completed work of needlepoint. She held the underside of the piece toward the man, all twisted, knotted and seemingly messy. "My friend, this must be your point of view on your life. But remember two things: 1) It is unfinished and 2) You do not have God's point of view on the project."
Corrie then turned the needlepoint over to reveal a beautiful still-life image.
Another incident involved the aftermath of a town-hall meeting when she was approached by a man whom she recognized as one of the most senior and brutal of guards at the prison camp. Smiling awkwardly, he advised that he had turned his life over to Christ and had repented of all the evil done during the war. Could she find it in her heart to forgive him?
Corrie's thoughts raced over the next few seconds. She saw the camp. The young women in despair. The indignities. The seemingly endless menial labour. Her sister's dead body. The deadly truck departures. In an unspoken prayer she confessed that she did not have the grace to forgive. Would God provide it. A sensation of warmth passed through her right arm and it was extended by reflex for the handshake. Both individuals were then teary-eyed and the kiss on the cheek and the embrace were soon accomplished. No longer enemies. But family.
Here again was the bus fare.