Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Into Reading: Tramp For the Lord

I have begun reading Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom and if you love The Hiding Place, then you have to read this too! It picks up where The Hiding Place left off and tells the story of Corrie's ministry after the war was over. I've only read about half the book, but I've been taking copious notes.

After the war, Corrie spent the rest of her life sharing her testimony- how, through the grace of God and her obedience to His Spirit, she was able to forgive the person who had betrayed her family for helping Jews. This betrayal had led to the death of her beloved father in prison and resulted in Corrie, age 52, and her sister Betsie, age 59, being sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany. They were there for almost a year. Betsie died in the camp and Corrie, by an administerial "mistake," was released one week before all the women her age were killed. During their time in Ravensbruck, Betsie had a vision for their ministry after the war, in which they would reach out to the German people who were living in such terrible spiritual bondage. After her release, God led Corrie to begin the ministry which Betsie had envisioned. Corrie ministered to the people of Holland and Germany, and later, she traveled throughout the world preaching forgiveness and the message of the gospel.

I love her writing. She seems real to me, not one of these "super-saints" to whom everything seems effortless. She shares her ongoing struggle against bitterness and selfishness, and her sense of humor shines through.

A few of Corrie's insights on forgiveness:

"If we forgive other people, our hearts are made fit to receive forgiveness."
I don't think I've ever looked at it in quite that way before. Yes, there is a direct command to forgive if we want to receive forgiveness from God (Matt 6:14-15) but I had always looked at it as one of those "You better do this or else!" commands. It never occurred to me that by refusing to forgive someone else, I would be unable to accept forgiveness, from God, myself, or even the people around me who offer me forgiveness. A determination to hold on to that bitterness prevents me from receiving forgiveness.

Corrie writes about an experience she shared with a German man who had lost both legs in the war and had given himself over to bitterness and hatred. But even after he had accepted Jesus, he still struggled with these same things. He asked Corrie,

"After you forgave your enemies, was it settled once and for all?"

"Oh no," I answered. "Just this month I had a sad experience with friends who behaved like enemies... they took great advantage of me. However, I surrendered my bitterness to the Lord and asked forgiveness and He took it away."

"Was this bitterness gone for good then?"

"No, just the next night, at four o'clock, I awoke and my heart was filled with bitterness again... Again I brought it to the Lord. He filled my heart with His love. But the next night it came back again. I was so discouraged. God had used me often to help people love their enemies, and I could always give my testimony about what He had done in my life, and now I felt defeated.

Then I remembered Eph. 6:10-20 where Paul describes the 'armour of God.' He said that even after you have come to a standstill, stand still your ground. I was at a standstill, so I decided to stand my ground and the bitterness and resentment fell away before me."

"I am glad to hear that," he said. "For sometimes my old bitterness returns. Now I shall just stand my ground, claim the victory of Jesus over fear and resentments, and love even when I don't want to."

My friend had learned well the secret of victory. It comes through obedience.

Corrie shared how, while speaking in Munich, she came face-to-face with one of the brutal guards from Ravensbruck. He did not recognize her, but she immediately knew him. He joyfully told her that he had become a Christian, and he asked her forgiveness and thrust his hand toward her for her to shake. She almost couldn't do it:
"I stood there- I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven- and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place- could he erase her slow, terrible death simply for the asking?

"I had to do it- I knew that... Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and horrible as that.

"And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion- I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling."

He did.

Isn't it an incredible story? More to come later.

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