God’s fleas

Every Summer without fail, we get them. Evidence of the fall. Proof that life here on this earth is marred by the sin of Adam. When infested by them, we call out for the quick return of our Savior! Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, spiders, bed bugs, lice, horse flies, chiggers. These awful critters are more than eager to bite at our flesh and drink up our blood. The itching, the scratching, the bleeding is a menacing reminder of their violation upon our skin. Here is where my mind went as I was finishing up The Hiding Place written by Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker who was arrested, along with her father and sister, for hiding Jews and conspiring against their Nazi occupiers.

In the book, Corrie and her family opened up their home to foster children, the mentality disabled, Jews and any who needed of any help. They shared their Christian lives to all, and when the Germans came to occupy their country, they continued to be a light in the darkness of WWII. They soon came in contact with a famous architect who designed a special hiding place in Corrie’s room where, when the time came, the Ten Boom’s could hide the Jews they were keeping in the their home. The hiding place was so well built that when the Germans did come to look for Jews, they did not find them. Corrie, along with her family were arrested, beat and mistreated by their German captors, but they never betrayed those they had hidden in their home.

In prison, the faith of Corrie and Betsie, was unbelievable. There were many moments throughout the book that were inspiring, but I will only write about two moments that I hope I will never forget. The first one is when Corrie and Betsie are transported from the prison, to the infamous all-women’s concentration camp called Ravensbruck. Upon arriving, they are sent to their barracks where Corrie and Betsie soon find out that it is infested with lice and fleas. There are so many fleas that they can see them writhing in the beds. Corrie is besides herself in horror – rightfully so. Here, is where Betsie pipes up and reminds Corrie that God says in His Word that in all things we should give thanks and that includes giving God thanks for the fleas. Corrie can’t believe what she is hearing. I can’t believe what I am reading. Give God thanks for those pesky critters that torment us? She must be joking. But Betsie was not, and then and there, both Corrie and Betsie give thanks to God for those fleas. I, am not that good of a Christian. Throughout the book, Corrie is able to keep with her a New Testament Bible, and every night, after 11 hour work days, she reads to all the women in the barracks. They pray, they tend to wounds, they rub cold feet and hands back to life, they pick out lice from their matted hair all without interruption. Later, we find out that other women in other barracks aren’t that lucky. Those women are bullied by the guards, called to do extra things, they are sicker because of their lack of rest, and do not hear the Word of God every night since Bibles are not allowed in concentration camps. Corrie finds out that she and her barrack mates are very privileged, and they are very privileged because not even the tough German guards want to get near Corrie’s barracks, for those barracks are known to be riddled with fleas! Corrie chuckles in the book, I put the book down and think.

When I read the section where Betsie encourages Corrie to give God thanks for the fleas, I thought Betsie was ridiculous, and frankly overdoing the whole Christian piety thing. Who does that?! I thank God for my delicious food, for a steady income, for my friends. I have never thanked Him for the annoying things in my life like my jittery van with the blinking check engine sign. Like the fruit flies all over the place. Like the allergies that come with fall. Here is the verse Betsie quotes:

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

“In everything” means “in every thing”. I was so humbled by that. God used those fleas to keep the German guards out, allowing Corrie to read aloud Scripture to women in horrendous living conditions. “Jesus, teach me to be thankful in every situation”.

The second scenario that I want to mention is at the end of the book, Corrie visits and speaks at a church in Germany after the war, and there meets the German soldier that got her and her family arrested. He is now a believer and asks for Corrie’s forgiveness, and Corrie cannot forgive him. She refuses to shake his hand and asks God to give her the strength to forgive this man who caused her so much pain and devastation. She lifts up her hand and as she touches his hand to shake, Corrie mentions that a jolt was felt from her hand, up her arm and into her heart. And there she felt a Christian love for this man. She mentions that God provides for us the forgiveness we cannot give. He gives us what we cannot give. He does what we cannot do. He provides what we cannot provide. He is faithful when we are not. What ever impossibility we are facing, we can trust that He provides to us what is required from us. Praise God!

In this season of Thanksgiving, this book was a pealing bell in calling me to a Christian life of humble service to all and thanksgiving. I have become too worldly, and this book has shined a blaring light on that. I am grateful for this book and encourage all Christians to read it. I plan to read it aloud to my children.

I have several copies of this book at The Shire, but you can also buy it here.

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