For those of you who aren’t reading along with us, let me tell you a story…
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
(Corrie ten Boom, “The Hiding Place.” Ebook location 4371)
In Chapter 15, Corrie comes face to face with one of her captors. He has come to know Christ, and she has to decide whether or not she is going to forgive him. Face to face with him, all of the fear and pain and bad memories and shame came back to her. (I know that feeling!) But in the midst of the emotional upheaval, she prays. And still, she can’t quite forgive. So she prays again, admitting, “I cannot do it. God, You can.” (That’s a paraphrase.) The power of God wells up in her just enough to inch her hand forward to take the hand of this man who had mistreated hundreds of thousands of people – including her and her dead sister. And when she took that tiny step of faith, the power of God surged through her, flooding her with the forgiveness and the love that she herself didn’t have.
We each have people that we need to forgive. Sometimes, it’s ourselves. (For me, that’s the hardest.) We try and try and try to forgive. I get frustrated and beat myself up – what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find the strength to forgive? Why can’t I do it? What am I doing wrong? And the truth is, I don’t have to do it. I just have to be willing to let Him.
This post is part of a weekly discussion on Corrie ten Boom’s classic, “The Hiding Place.” You do not have to read the book to weigh in on whatever topic is being discussed. However, if you have written a response to this week’s chapter, throw it up in the comments below as the widget has decided to malfunction. Then go visit Jason, my co-facilitator, at Connecting to Impact, to see what he has to say.