Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Give Thanks for the Fleas

I must have been around 10 or 11.  I was spending the summer with my grandparents in Mississippi, and was constantly hungry for something, anything to read.  I had mowed through the volumes of Reader's Digest Condensed books, and was looking for something new when I came across Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place.  I am certain that I had no idea what it was about when I picked it up.  

The book tells the story of Corrie and her sister Betsie.  Because of their strong Christian beliefs, they felt obligated to help their Jewish friends during Nazi invasion.  The Hiding Place was a secret room built into their home.  Ultimately, they were discovered to be aiding the Jews and were imprisoned.  Eventually, the sisters were transferred to Ravensbruck.  

At Ravensnbruck, the sisters shared their faith when they could.  It was difficult because of the constant surveillance of the guards and the beatings that would ensue.  The conditions were worse than any of us in our warm beds and freedom can possibly imagine.

"It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy."
Then they were moved to a barracks with rank, flea infested straw mats for beds.  It seemed too much to  bear.

Betsie discovered God's answer:
"'"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus." That's it, Corrie! That's His answer. "Give thanks in all circumstances!" That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!'

"I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room…"
They thanked God  they were together. They thanked God they had a Bible. They gave thanks for the horrible crowds of prisoners, because more people would be able to hear God's Word. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas.

"The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'

"'"Give thanks in all circumstances,"' she quoted. 'It doesn't say, "in pleasant circumstances."  Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.'

"And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong."
Turns out that the fleas kept the guards away.  The women were not brutalized or forbidden to worship because the guards would not come in.  

To this day, I am humbled and in awe of the concept of giving thanks for the fleas.  Because  Corrie went through that horror, and then honored her sister's memory with the writing of the book, I and millions of other have been inspired. 

So we must give thanks for the fleas in our lives.  God puts us where he needs us.  He uses our circumstances to mold and shape us.  He also uses them to teach and influence others.  Though we might not understand it, God uses ALL things for good. 

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading it when I was a young girl. I was so awestruck by her courage and the wisdom to see past the immediate for what was surely God's loving intervention. Since then I have met many Holocaust survivors who shared their stories with me. It is so good to know that one day we will see the bigger picture for ourselves and not just the fleas that seemed so important at the time.