Corrie Ten Boom – Forgiveness, Hope and Faith in Prison

hiding place

If you haven’t heard of Corrie Ten Boom, you have missed out on an amazing testimony of perseverance, faith and hope in the face of awesome suffering and tragedy. Corrie and her family were the subject of the book and movie called the Hiding Place. The brief version of the story is that the family lived in Nazi-occupied Holland in WWII and provided sanctuary to Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis. The family was caught and all were sent to concentration camps, Corrie and her sister Betsy to the same ones. Corrie was the only one who survived. Despite her loss, she was able to forgive not only those who betrayed her family, but also the Nazis who killed her family.

One story I particularly appreciate takes place in one of the concentration camps that held her and her sister. Corrie was miserable because of the horrendous conditions, including overcrowding and an infestation of fleas, and complained about it to Betsy. Betsy urged her sister to be grateful for all they have, including the fleas. Betsy could not bring herself to do so,  but Betsy continued to encourage her. It turns out, as they planned to hold Bible studies with a Bible they were able to sneak in, they learned that the guards hated to come to their particular barracks because of the flea infestation. Corrie finally learned to be grateful for everything, even the fleas. What a great example. While I never experienced anything close to Corrie Ten Boom, I did try to have the same spirit of gratitude for everything God provided, even the bitter cold in Ohio, the lack of A/C in sweltering Petersburg and the rats and roaches in Atlanta holdover.

P.S. I strongly recommend reading the book The Hiding Place and seeing the movie by the same name. I also suggest these books by her:

Tramp for the Lord

 In My Father’s House

 Amazing Love

 Not I, But Christ

 

Journal Entry – 3/29/12 – FCI Elkton – Feeling sad today…

From my prison journal (18 months in):

Feeling sad today about not getting letters and visits from many of he folks who stayed in touch the first year or so. It’s not that I feel neglected or rejected. It’s more that I miss the connections and relationship that come with communicating with them. I am grateful that they still care and pray for me. I am confident most of the still do. Maybe when I get down to Petersburg, VA it will pick up. Or, maybe God has another plan. 

Prison, like life, is a series of ups and downs. A real roller coaster ride. There are periods of peace and periods of stress, loneliness and sadness. This day I was probably feeling a little sorry for myself. Writing it down helped me put it in perspective and realize that even if no one writes me, I still have God. We all desire relationships, that is how God made us. There are times where I felt alone. When I did I would try to pick up my Bible or some other faith-centered book and try to focus on my relationship with God. I also prayed a lot and would pick up the phone and call Lisa as well. I am so grateful for Lisa and her support of me during the 5 years I spent in prison. She did her own time in her own prison of separation. I’m so grateful we prepared for prison with counseling and continued to practice being open and honest in our communications. It sure made the time more bearable and was a huge factor in keeping our marriage together. I strongly recommend using whatever time you have prior to prison to strengthen your relationships.

Forgiveness

bible-god-quotes-54There’s a song by Matthew West entitled “Forgiveness” that captures the true struggle it is to forgive, even those we love. The song goes, in part:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness (http://youtu.be/n9J6xOT3Ldw) – Forgiveness Video

For those with family members facing prison it is probably one of the hardest things you’ll be asked to do. There is so much pain, anger, resentment and sometimes even hate caused by our crimes and their impact on our families. But the first step to surviving the prison experience is to forgive what at times seems like the unforgivable.

And for the one facing prison there is often an urge to blame others for our situation. Whether it is law enforcement, a family member, a “snitch” or someone else, we also must learn to forgive. One person we also need to forgive is ourselves. But the only way we can and should do this is after we’ve accepted full responsibility for our actions and are working to repent of them. Repentance means to turn our back on old behavior and start in a new direction. This repentance is what will ultimately allow those who love us to forgive us.

Another quote on forgiveness, also in the song above is from Lewis B. Smedes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner is you.” Whether you are behind bars or know someone behind bars, forgiveness frees you from the prison of bitterness and allows you to move forward. God bless you!

David Chatham