On February 28, 1944 Corrie ten Boom was arrested along the rest of her family for having broken the law. They had not turned in all of their bikes or radios. They had not kept curfew. They hid Jewish people.
The entire family had been taken to Scheveningen prison in Holland. Each member of the family was put into his or her own cell. There was no contact between them – or even with the other prisoners. The cells were concrete with steel doors with a tiny slot in which food was inserted. Their only contact was the voice of the gruff guards.
And one day the guards didn’t come. In June 1944 Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to Vught Concentration camp in Southern Netherlands. For their uniforms, they were given paper thin dresses marked with X’s. They were expected to perform heavy labor. There was no communication among the prisoners and the guards were abusive. While at Vught, Betsie spent the majority of time in the infirmary due to failing health.
As the war progressed, many prison camps were closed due to lack of funds. In September of 1944 the ten Boom sisters ended up in their final prison camp. Ravensbrück, located in northern Germany, was one of the last prisons to remain open.
Because so many other camps had closed, Ravensbrück was overcrowded with prisoners. It was infested with lice and fleas. The barracks reeked of urine. But it was there they seemed to experience more freedoms had been deprived in the first two prisons. That is, they were able to have face to face communication with the other prisoners and the guards didn’t seem to disturb them as much – especially in the barracks.
With their first night at Ravensbrück, Bestie offered a prayer of gratitude. One of the things she said they ought to be thankful for was the fleas. Corrie (as I, the reader) thought Betsie to be out of her mind. And Corrie was certain that even God could not make her grateful for a flea.
It isn’t until later in her biography that we learn that the guards didn’t bother the prisoners in the barracks because they didn’t want to be where the fleas were.
I have compared my trials to fleas. I don’t enjoy having trials. I love trials like I love fleas and poverty and hate and crime. I know that trials are necessary for growth, but you know, there are some times I would just like to take my hat off, toss it in the air and say, “Okay, enough already. Please let me lay back long enough to understand what a breather really is.”
I try to express gratitude for things that I really am grateful for – my daughter, a stranger stopping to help change a flat, an answer to a question that has been on my mind, the unexpected chocolate chip cookies that my mouth so enjoys. Little things. Big things. But not trials.
Yet how much better would my experience be if I could honestly say, “Thank you for the fleas” “Thank you for allowing the car to break down” “Thank you for yet another reminder from the IRS – this time a threat. How joyful”
I realize that it is not the fault of God that my car would break down or run out of gas or what have you. Actually, I’m very grateful that I have transportation and often thank my Heavenly Father for allowing me to get to and from destinations without having broken down.
I recall teaching a primary lesson. A boy in my class had lived in Oklahoma in April of 1995. He related the following story about his primary teacher:
She was on her way to work and was running late as it was. Having to pull over on the freeway because of a bad car situation did not help matters. One might not think of it as a blessing when it initially happened. It was on April 19, 1995 when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed – the very building where she worked. She was still stranded on the freeway when the bomb went off.
I’d like to be more gracious in thanking God for trials – for my own personal set of fleas. Unfortunately there seems to be little humility on my end. My pathetic attempts to show gratitude come out more sarcastically. I suppose there has been a very good reason for having my ears clogged and hurtful sinus infections. I don’t know the reasons right now. Perhaps I’ll never know. But I can still offer gratitude for the current “fleas” in my life. I think it would help me become closer to God. I know it would.