I’ve been sitting in my rocking chair by the Weeping Cherry and reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. It’s a cool morning, and I have my old green sweater around my arms, a fat cat at my feet, and coffee by my side. I feel older than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m weighted down by more than age; I feel the heavy sadness and confusion of land wars, shot down planes, storms, suicides, and so much news of suffering that my heart cannot contain it. For a moment, I let God take it all from me, and I rest in my chair.
If you haven’t read The Hiding Place, it’s the account of how a Dutch Christian family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust. We follow Corrie ten Boom’s imprisonment in horrific conditions and how she found strength, hope, and forgiveness in Jesus. You can also watch the movie made in 1975 based on Corrie’s book.
This book is especially meaningful to me because I remember how one summer at Camp Greystone, I met the traveling companion to Corrie ten Boom, Ellen Stamps. Mrs. Stamps was a visiting speaker at camp who shared many stories of her time with Corrie ten Boom as they traveled the world together to share the message of Jesus Christ before Corrie died.
I scurry down to my basement and pile up all the old journals from that summer at Camp Greystone. I find the one that takes me back to this moment:
One day, Mrs. Stamps invited me to her little guest cabin, brewed me hot coffee (even in the middle of summer), and prayed with me about my own life and struggles. It was July 26, 1995, and I wrote in my journal everything I learned from this humble woman who had more wisdom stored in her than any person I had ever met. She talked to me privately–as the rain fell and the coffee brewed–to impart a few special lessons just for me.
I felt so loved by God that He would allow me to spend time with such a godly woman. I wrote in my journal, “I think my life began to change on July 26, 1995.” I was young in my faith. I was confused and full of shame and worry.
I learned this:
Mrs. Stamps began by telling me that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Hope. Anything else is wrong. Don’t listen to any other voice but Hope.
She also told me that the ups and downs of my heart are like the waves of the sea, but that the Holy Spirit is a calm place within me.
We sat in two chairs by a small wooden table with just a lamp and a Bible on it. It rained, and I could smell the mulch and the pine trees. Mrs. Stamps’ wrinkled hands held onto mine. This woman who had spent so many years traveling with and learning from Corrie ten Boom held my hands in hers, and I wrote in my journal about all the hands those hands had comforted over the years. What would my hands do in my life? Why was God letting me touch what I felt like were sacred hands?
She spoke of forgiveness–of forgiving oneself and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness.
She also spoke about a beautiful broken harp that no one in the village could repair. In this illustration, the only person who could repair the harp to make beautiful music was the one who built it himself. Mrs. Stamps reminded me that God made me and knows how to repair whatever is broken in me.
Those were powerful and important moments in my journey with the Lord as a twenty year old.
So I’m sitting in my rocking chair, now two decades later, and I go back to the lessons of Corrie ten Boom that she passed on to Ellen Stamps. I had forgotten my favorite lesson from Corrie’s father after her first broken heart. He tells her this:
“Corrie. . . do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked, that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for this love to travel.”
All morning, I think about when our love (our desires, our dreams, our hopes) is blocked and we experience pain. I’m filled with such overwhelming hope when I see the wisdom of asking God to open up another route for our love to travel.
If not this path, then that one. If not this, then something else. I pray for God to keep my love strong and to open up all the routes on which this love might travel best.
I look back on the wisdom of Corrie ten Boom, her father, and Ellen Stamps. On a single rainy afternoon twenty years ago, their stories intersected mine in a way that changed me forever.