It may seem as if I have been obsessed with the subject of forgiveness. The reason is because I believe it is of the utmost importance.
My belief is that forgiveness, the understanding of it and the practice of it in our daily lives is one of the most necessary parts of living an overcoming life. Forgiveness is foundational, it has to be a part of the foundation on which we build our life or we will be subject to every whim or emotion that comes our way.
I have shared my own testimony in previous posts about the process that I have gone through of forgiving my mother for crimes that she committed against me. I have testified about the new freedom and growth in every aspect of my life and in my relationship with God that began when I began the process of forgiving her. Now, I want to share some bits and pieces of another person’s story.
Corrie ten Boom is a very well-known survivor of Nazi concentration camps. The book, “The Hiding Place”, authored by Corrie with James and Elizabeth Sherrill, is an account of the work that she and her family did in Holland during World War II in the assistance of Jews who were trying to escape the persecution of the nightmare that we now refer as the “The Holocaust”. In “The Hiding Place” Corrie also gives an account of her family including her sister Betsie and many of their experiences at the hands of the Nazi regime. God worked many miracles in the spiritual lives of many people and used Corrie and her sister Betsie to shine through, wherever they were imprisoned. Betsie died while in the concentration camp, Ravensbruck.
“The Hiding Place” is worth a read if you have not read it. I have read it twice. The first time I read it, I was an adolescent and was very shocked by the descriptions of the inhumane treatment while they were imprisoned. I left the book with that very strongly on my mind and did not pick it up and read it again until two years ago. The second time around was when I was struck by all of the aspects of how the experiences effected their spiritual lives in very positive ways. If you have not read it, it is worth the read and it is a very easy, fulfilling and enlightening read.
The reason I am taking the time to mention this very special lady is because I want to share with you an account of her forgiveness of a man who was a former guard at the concentration camp, Ravensbruck, where Betsie died.
Here it is, in her own words:
IT WAS IN A CHURCH in Munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him-a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.
Memories of the concentration camp came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say,all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk, ” he was saying. “I was a guard there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein”, again the hand came out, “will you forgive me?”
And I stood there and could not. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it, I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But 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.”
And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried, “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.
Here again, right in front of our eyes is another story of forgiveness. Another story of victory. Corrie ten Boom had a choice and it turned out to be a much simpler choice than what it looked like it would be.
Although she has gone on to her heavenly home, Corrie ten Boom lives on in the hearts of anyone who knows her story. She led a victorious life characterized by her message to all of forgiveness. She became very famous and she “tramped” all over the world with that message.
Her choice could have been a very different one but she chose the high road, the narrow road, the road that is a foot path to a higher place. The higher place that I refer to as the peak of the “Mountain of Forgiveness”. I have to say that I am so glad that she did.
I hope that her story has blessed you and if you already knew it, then I hope that the reminder was refreshing.
Love and blessings to you!