Recently I have been guided by some wisdom I gleaned from Corrie ten Boom’s classic book The Hiding Place. In it she recounts the story of when she and her sister Betsie discovered they had both been serving God backwards.
A turn of events
Because of circumstances, such as Betsie being the older sister and her father needing help in the shop, the girls had assumed that Corrie would take care of the house while Betsie would administer the books in her father’s shop.
At last, because of an unforeseen illness that had overtaken Betsie, they both realized they had been serving God backwards the whole time. Here is the passage that has helped me come to know a better way to live:
“Betsie ten Boom!” I exploded. “How long has this been going on? No wonder you are not getting better!”
“I’ve stayed in bed most of the time, honestly—-” she stopped while great coughs shook her. “I’ve only got up for really important things.”
I put her to bed and then prowled the rooms with new-opened eyes, looking for Betsie’s ‘important things.’ How little I had really noticed about the house! Betsie had wrought changes everywhere. I marched back up to her room and confronted her with the evidence. “Was it important, Betsie, to rearrange all the dishes in the corner cupboard?”
She looked up at me and her face went red. “Yes it was,” she said defiantly. “You just put them in any old way.”
And the door to Tante Jan’s rooms? Someone’s been using paint remover on it, and sandpaper too – and that’s hard work!”
“But there’s beautiful wood underneath, I just know it! For years I’ve wanted to get that old varnish off and see. “Oh Corrie,” she said, her voice suddenly small and contrite, “I know it’s horrid and selfish of me when you’ve had to be in the shop day after day.
And I will take better care of myself so you won’t have to do it much longer; but, oh, it’s been so glorious being here all day, pretending I was in charge, you know, planning what I’d do…”
And so it was out. We had divided the work backwards. It was astonishing, once we’d made the swap, how well everything went. The house had been clean under my care; under Betsie’s it glowed. She saw beauty in wood, in pattern, in colour, and helped us to see it too.
The small food budget which had barely survived my visits to the butcher and disappeared altogether at the bakery, stretched under Betsie’s management to include all kinds of delicious things that had never been on our table before. “Just wait till you see what’s for dessert this noon!” she’d tell us at the breakfast table, and all morning in the shop the question would shimmer in the back of our minds.”
Making the swap
Once they “made the swap” they both discovered and excelled at the expression of their unique gifts. They were both a lot happier too. Betsie was gifted at hospitality and taking care of practical things, while Corrie excelled at waiting on customers and keeping her father’s accounts.
A new joy had arisen in her, and soon Corrie desired to learn her father’s trade and, three years later, she became the first female licensed apprentice in Harlem.
Would any of this have happened if a mysterious illness had not fallen upon Betsie? Who knows. It is not our business to ask why but only to respond to what is. To be sure, things did work under the old system. The books were kept; the house was cleaned; dinner was made.
But things did not thrive and, more importantly, people did not thrive in their service to the Lord. But once Betsie and Corrie “made the swap” the household flourished, the business flourished and most importantly, a new joy of service was discovered.
A better way to live
A better way to live is to discover what your gift is and to align your life to serve with that gift. Ask yourself a question: in what way do I enjoy serving God? Ask yourself another question: what do I continue to pursue in my free time, with excellence and interest, no matter how busy I am? Whatever comes to mind, pursue that. It is most likely that God has gifted you in that capacity, to serve and to glorify Him.
We must not let circumstances, family or men determine our ministries or service. Remember, “there are diversities of gift but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all” (1 Cor.12:4-6).