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19 October 2020

Finding my hiding place

Rod Rumble Rod Rumble
Rod Rumble

Some reflections from Rod Rumble (member of the Pastoral Care Team) on deepening our relationship with God in a Coronavirus world.

During World War II, a single, middle-aged clockmaker and her family, living in the old Dutch city of Haarlem, was betrayed to the occupying Germans. They had been using their home to hide Jews. Corrie Ten Boom, her sister Betsy and their old father were taken off to prison. Her frail father died within a short time of arrest. The two sisters were finally sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany, where her beloved Betsy also died.

Corrie had been raised in a wonderfully warm, godly family. She loved her work with children with special needs and her many church activities. She was grounded in Scripture and prayer. But now Corrie had been robbed of all that she loved. She was often kept in solitary confinement and, when not working, locked into cold, overcrowded vermin-infested huts, surrounded by sick and dying women.

Corrie was no ‘plaster saint’; in her later biography (The Hiding Place) she describes the ferocious anger she felt towards the cruel camp guards. However, she found ways to support and encourage some of the women around her. She shared her meagre bread ration, during ‘solitary’, with an ant that emerged from a crack in the floor of the cell. She managed to keep hidden a small Bible which she would read to a small group of women. Corrie even managed to sabotage the radio components her team were making in the workshops. All this without knowing if she would ever survive.

Over these recent months our lives have been arrested by a virus. What we, perhaps, saw as our more or less controlled lives have been stolen by a minute organism moving threateningly through our communities, taking from us our freedoms to meet, sing together and hug one another. We’re all, to some degree, feeling our loss and we live in fear, not knowing how nor if things will end. I do wonder about Corrie’s choice of the title of her book, ‘The Hiding Place’. Was it alluding to the secret room constructed in her ‘wonky’ old house in Haarlem, or was it a way of describing the hidden place in her heart where God dwelt with her, even in the worst of times? When our supports (family, friends, church activities) are taken away, what of us and our ‘faith’ remains? Perhaps we are afraid even to think that question...

Many have asked what God might be saying through Covid. It may be that He is saying different things: to the world at large, to our nation, to us as local church families and to us as individual followers of Jesus.

Maybe for us he is taking away some of our props, even our church props, in order for us to cultivate the inner life with Him, to ‘practise the presence of God’, whether we are cut off from loved ones by Covid or locked up with too many people! We have lost a lot, but what remains? God says to us in Rev 3:2: ‘Strengthen what remains’. I could be taking this verse out of its context but, if we do accept it, what might it mean for us now that we cannot meet as a whole body in our church building?

As a church we have been and are blessed with godly leaders, who have faithfully fed us, taught us, trained us. Do we now need more to feed ourselves, to digest and to internalise what we have received This kind of life with God develops out of the sight of others, it can take us into places of uncertainty, yet here there is the possibility of meeting God in new ways, experiencing fresh glimpses of God and eternity. But being helpless, still and silent before God is so hard for us who all our lives have been coached in productivity. Could being busy in ‘The Lord’s service’ be a way to avoid sitting at Jesus’s feet and listening to Him? Jesus commended Mary for her choice and gently, but firmly, rebuked Martha. I wonder if the fear that so often keeps me from turning aside from activity, to wait for God, is that He might not show up; more often than not He too appears to be silent, even absent. Like the disciples, when God seems absent I easily return to my ‘fishing’.

In taking responsibility for our own journey can we not now release our leaders from their struggle to find ways to make up for our losses and free them to wait on God for what he has for us and for them?

We can be still, and silent with God, somewhere: under the shade of a tree, near water, or if stuck indoors, in the smallest room in our house! We can express our grief to God. Like Jacob, we can wrestle with God. Like Jeremiah, we can write down our laments. God can read!

After facing and voicing our grief we can begin to count our blessings! We can thank God for what we have, rather than dwell on what we think we have lost. We can connect with created things around us: the shades of approaching Autumn, a solitary rose in the middle of Winter. We could even develop a friendship with an ant!

We can smile at those we pass by in the street - two metres apart! - and quietly pray for them! We can use the means we do have to connect with others.

Corrie Ten Boom survived captivity, suddenly released with no explanation. She lived into old age to give and forgive, to bring healing even to her former captors and those deeply damaged by war.

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