I just finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. A friend recently read an excerpt from the book as part of her talk in church - the part where Corrie's sister showed her how to be grateful and praise God in all things, even for fleas in the Ravensbruck concentration camp barracks. The presence of fleas meant the guards would never enter the barracks which allowed them to hold religious services from their miraculously smuggled Bible.
I had shied away from the book for years because I knew the writer experiences a concentration camp. Since moving here I have not wanted to read disparaging things about my hosts who I've found to be kind, regular folks. I am reminded of the description of European Israelis on my study abroad in contrast to the instantly warm reception of Palestinians. Israelis were described to me as prickly pears - hard to get to know at first, but friends for life once you're in.
I have felt uncomfortable by slights on the German people of the past and today for the collective guilt of WWII atrocities. In this book, however, I really appreciated the mentioning of kindnesses and courtesies bestowed by Germans, many of whom suffered as well under the Nazis. Our lives truly are filled with tiny miracles showing God's love for us daily and we truly can be grateful for everything even if we don't yet understand Why. Because the book is about giving our hard things to God so we can survive and thrive with humanity, there's no better harsh circumstances to have this proven.
That description may sound a bit preachy, but its Corrie's sometimes stubborn learning of these truths that makes the memoir so wonderful and powerful. This book and The Peacemaker have been great introspective reads on understanding and applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It's made me realize how stubbornly I hold on to my vices.
In stark contrast to The Hiding Place, is The Forever War, by NY Times journalist Dexter Filkins. For the past four months I have also been listening to this book about what it is like to be in war torn Iraq and Afghanistan. The link I provided above is a great overview from an interview with the author. The book is apolitical, a collection of vignettes about his experiences there. It's refreshing in its apolitical-ness and Filkins' attempts to understand people. If you think you have an opinion about what should be done there, you'll be leveled. He was able to interview and be around many types of people, many different sides. There is no overarching theme other than to show you what it is like to be there. It has taken me a long time to finish because it gets pretty heavy at times. So much suffering, so hard to see an end to it. As I finished The Forever War today, I am so grateful I was reminded yesterday by finishing The Hiding Place that God is in charge. Always watchful, always there for us and them even in the midst of horrific circumstances. Particularly then.