I’ve spent the last two days laying on the couch with a fever, listening to Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. One particular story stuck out.
Every Monday, Corrie’s father, a watchmaker, would take the train to Amsterdam to get the time from the astronomical clock at the Naval Observatory. She wrote:
Oftentimes I would use the trip home to bring up things that were troubling me… Once–I must have been ten or eleven–I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” …
And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. It’s too heavy,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
And I was satisfied. More than satisfied–wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions–for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.
The Hiding Place, 26
Much later in the book, Corrie and her father are arrested by the Gestapo for their work of hiding Jews in their home, and moving them to safer locations. After three months in prison at Scheveningen, she is called for her first hearing with Lieutenant Rahms. Through the first hearing, he is disarmed by some of the things she says. At the second hearing, he drops all pretense of questioning her on her underground activities, and instead asks her to tell him stories from her childhood.
The hardest thing for him seemed to be that Christians should suffer. “How can you believe in God now?” he’d ask. “What kind of a God would have let that old man die here in Scheveningen?”
…I did not understand either why Father had died in such a place. I did not understand a great deal.
And suddenly I was thinking of Father’s own answer to hard questions: “Some knowledge is too heavy… you cannot bear it… your Father will carry it until you are able.”
I find her father’s answer strangely comforting, too. In trying to imagine what it would be like to understand all things, to be all knowing, to see how all things fit together in this world and universe, it does seem that it would be a knowledge too weighty for me to bear.
This is just a hypothetical example, but imagine being able to see how a particular event from fifty years ago, triggered another event, which caused so-and-so to make such-and-such a decision, which kept another man alive, who eventually fathered you. That would be incredible enough to see, and there are only a few links in the chain.
But what would it be like to see the interconnectedness of every living thing in the universe? To understand why there is suffering here, but not there? To be able to see what is redemptive about that suffering, or even what could be redemptive about that suffering? To know not only all that has been, but all that could be, were every person that ever lived had made any one of the many choices that he or she had available at any given moment, and to know how each of those choices could have affected any other person’s choice, throughout history, and into the future?
It would drive me utterly insane. I would be able to think of nothing else. I wouldn’t sleep. Is it God’s kindness to us that he has not given us a mind to comprehend such knowledge?