Have you ever met a character in a book or movie (fictional or historical) that seemed like an old friend? I have. Many times. And it seems like when I have, there is so much to be learned from them. Maybe we feel like we know them because we have similar traits. Maybe they remind us of someone. Actually…maybe they remind us of who we really are and inspire us to become that better version of ourselves.
Have you ever heard of “standing on the shoulder of giants?” This is how I view some of the people who I admire.
Are you with me? Let me explain a little.
A giant to me is someone who has characteristics that I admire…physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and such. If I can learn from the lessons they’ve learned and the wisdom they have gained, I can pick up where they left off — or stand on their shoulders — and continue to progress.
So now I want to introduce you to one of my “giants.” She feels like a dear and personal friend, and if I can get to the end of my life and resemble her in any way, I will be content.
Her name is Betsie Ten Boom.
Have you ever read The Hiding Place? It’s my all-time favorite book! It is an amazing and true story from World War II, told by Betsie’s sister, Corrie. Most people I have talked to have connected more with Corrie than with Betsie, and that’s okay. But Betsie is my hero.
Without giving away too much of the story (because I hope you will go and read it), I’ll just mention a couple things I have learned from Betsie.
The Power of Peace
In a world that often points out that the sky is falling, it’s easy to get caught up in fear, frustration, anxiety, negativity, and blame. We’ve all seen it. We’ve even been pulled in to it. But it’s not a pleasant place. Certainly one we wouldn’t want to stick around in.
Betsie was right in the middle of a time when the sky really was falling. But I LOVE how she dealt with it!
One time Corrie saw some pretty scary things in a dream about the family’s future. When she shared it with her sister, Betsie said, “…if God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know — to tell us that this, too, is in His hands.”
Was she amazing or what? I love this woman! When the evidence around her pointed to disaster, she chose to trust God and to think positively. She really did handle some tough situations without freaking out.
Except maybe once. One time the radio announcer was screaming (interrupting her peaceful heart), and she almost threw herself at the radio to turn it off!
I have a written vision statement that includes that I remember people’s names and important details of their lives. My vision statement is about what I am creating – not necessarily what I have already achieved. Just sayin’.
BUT…It is actually very important to me that others feel like they truly have a friend when they’re around me. So I will keep working on this one!
Betsie, on the other hand, always made people feel like she cared. She went out of her way to remember people’s names and the details of their lives. (Maybe Betsie had to work at this too! *hopeful smile*) She would ask after their hopes and dreams and offer strength when there was sadness.
Now here’s something else cool that Betsie did. She always kept a pot of soup on the stove! Why? In case an unexpected visitor showed up! That way she had something to offer them to make them feel welcome.
I need to work on this one too! Peanut butter and jelly anyone?
It’s Okay to Be Different
I think we all recognize prejudice and intolerance in our society. I don’t think it only exists on one side or the other. It shows up with the rich and the poor, women and men, religious and non-religious, political and non-political, and so on.
I grew up in the South and I could never understand why the whole world couldn’t love each other simply because we are all humans sharing the same planet. Being different is okay.
So what about Betsie? Here ya have a Christian lady in her fifties, never been married, and no kids. She could have been pretty set in her ways, but she was tremendously loving toward others.
One instance was during the Christmas season. While hiding Jews, (this isn’t a spoiler – the description on Amazon kinda says this) Betsie wanted them to feel welcome and at home. So she gathered some candles and joined with them to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah! She embraced the differences and respected their beliefs. Love it!
A Forgiving Heart
When someone legitimately does something to hurt us…not just a little offense but a huge one…it can be excruciating to forgive. Actually – the little ones can be tough too.
But this is one of the things that blew me away about Betsie. Even though she had really BIG hurts and had every reason to be angry and hold grudges, she didn’t. Just two quick examples.
After Betsie was beaten by a soldier, Corrie was pretty worried about her. Betsie’s response to Corrie’s concern was this: “Yes. I feel so sorry for him.”
Is that just crazy!? She’s didn’t even acknowledge the pain she went through. Instead, Betsie was worried about the soldier and the state of his soul. She’s such an example to me!
During their time in the camp, Betsie and Corrie were terribly treated by some of the female guards. One was particularly awful, and the two sisters saw her differently. Corrie “glanced at the matron seated at the desk… [seated in] a gray uniform and visored hat;…[but Betsie] saw a wounded human being.”
Betsie was forgiving, and instead of seeing the aggressors as her enemy, she saw the pain and suffering they must have gone through to treat people that way. She sure gives me a lot to ponder.
Thankful in All Things
This lesson from Betsie is one of my favorites because I’ve been experimenting with it myself. It’s been a really fun process (let us emphasize the word process), but I have already seen some wonderful things happen when I choose gratitude when things aren’t going like I planned.
Betsie and Corrie were sent to one of the worst quarters of the concentration camp, and it was absolutely infested with fleas! Corrie was really upset about it. Betsie immediately turned to God in prayer and asked for help to handle the fleas. The thought that came to her mind was to revisit their Bible reading from that morning. It said, “in everything give thanks.” So after she and Corrie thanked God for being together, for not having their Bible taken away, and for their close quarters where more women could hear God’s word, Betsie thanked God for the fleas. Corrie was at her wit’s end and thought Betsie was nuts.
But…not too many days passed before Betsie got to share why those fleas were a blessing. She overheard one of the guards who refused to come into their quarters because of the nasty fleas! The fleas were the very reason the guards left them alone, which allowed them to offer hope to the others through Bible study.
Heavens to Betsie
So there it is. Peace. Kindness. Tolerance. Forgiveness. Gratitude. So much wisdom from Betsie.
She was truly a woman worth emulating, and I am grateful for her life.
Even from Heaven she is still touching lives. So you gotta go read the book! It’s amazing! And we can all learn something from her. Don’t you think the world could use more Betsies?