Bombers flew while air raid sirens shrilled. Streets normally bustling with bikes now stood empty in the curfew’s eerie quietness. In Haarlem, Holland, Hitler’s army seemed invincible. Inside each tall narrow house, fear chilled people’s hearts and haunted their eyes.
But one tall narrow house was different. It stood on a street corner, and a clock shop occupied the ground level. Despite the atrocities surrounding them, the people inside this house had big smiles and steaming cups of tea for anyone who came. The tea was weak—war rations did not reach very far—but the welcoming handshakes were strong. An aura of peace pervaded the house; it was almost a carefree feeling. How could this be?
They had a Hiding Place.
Four years passed and the war raged on. Hundreds of Jews threaded their way to the ten Boom family’s special house. One stop in a modern Underground Railroad, the Hiding Place provided solace, a respite, a shield from the war’s anti-Semitic fervour. Whether they stayed with the ten Boom’s for one day or several months, the Jews could rest from the haunting fears outside the house.
But life at the Hiding Place came at a price. It meant separation from familiar surroundings. It meant letting go of personal space and co-operating with others in hiding. It took special grace to endure each others’ idiosyncrasies. Most painful of all, it brought separation from families, and no one knew when or if they would ever be reunited.
They had become like hunted animals, and wanted only to survive. Their ears were always tuned to the buzzer that would warn them of danger in the house. They had drilled often, making painstaking efforts to learn exactly what to do when the real emergency came. When the alarm sounded, they rushed to whisk away plates of food or to flip warm mattresses. Then they would run to the back of the house, scamper up a narrow flight of steps, rush through Corrie’s bedroom, duck under a shelf in the linen closet, and crawl through its concealed sliding back panel.
Ah! Now the Hiding Place held them tight. Up on the third floor and at the back of the house, they were as far away from the front door as possible. Solid brick walls surrounded them; crackers and water sustained them while they waited the “all clear.”
Each morning, everyone in the house gathered to hear Papa ten Boom read from the old family Bible. One morning he read an especially significant portion: Psalm 91. “He who dwells in the secret place of the most High…” Later that day, the Gestapo raided the house in search of Jews. But they never found the Hiding Place. Soldiers arrested Papa ten Boom and his two daughters for their “crime” of sheltering Jews. Two interminably long days later, friends rescued the six hidden Jews from their cramped but safe cocoon.
The Hiding Place is still in Haarlem. I was moved to tears as I touched the brick wall and looked into the narrow, secret room. The stability, the security of it gave me a new perspective of my own life.
I need a Hiding Place too, when my soul’s enemy wants to destroy me. Jesus, my generous benefactor, takes me into His house. He feeds my starved heart and lets me rest in His provision. No more war rations!
Whatever He demands of me is not to make me miserable, but to keep me alive. When He asks me to give up my rights and to love people around me, He does it to prepare me for protection from the fierce spiritual warfare that surrounds us.
The secret place of the most High can be a place of isolation. Sometimes it restricts me from doing what others are doing outside. It doesn’t feel good, and I chafe inside. But it is there, alone with Him, where I find the source of stability and protection. The Hiding Place is not a gloomy place, but one of joy. I am isolated and hidden, but not alone. The war is still fierce outside. I still ache for the people who aren’t with me. But in His company, under His protection, I know true comfort.
The secret place in Holland and in Psalm 91 is not an obsolete idea. The old family Bible said in 1944 what our Bibles still say. The Hiding Place still harbors the souls weary from the enemy’s intrusions. I have wept for it, groped for it, found it. There is still a Hiding Place!