Recently I had the great honor of revisiting a book that I loved as a child – and now as an adult, I find so much more richness and perspective reading it again!
I’m referring to The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, with Elizabeth and John Sherrill. Here’s the book cover description from Hendrickson Publishers:
Out of the evil called the Holocaust arose a witness, a voice that even the Nazis could not silence, a voice that testified to the power of God to overcome every wickedness and sorrow.
Corrie ten Boom is that witness and her powerful story recounts the courage of one Christian family of Dutch watchmakers who determined to save Jews and resistance workers from the Gestapo forces that had overrun the Netherlands. As the pressure against the Jews grew, the risks increased and the ten Booms accelerated their efforts. … Corrie and her sister Betsie were ultimately deported to the Nazi death camp Ravensbruck.
Corrie survived, though her family did not. Following the war she began to tell her story of God’s faithfulness and his mercy, even in the darkest and deepest pit. The same faith that compelled the ten Boom family to stand firm in the face of evil would continue to shape Corrie’s life as she bore witness to the great power of God’s love to forgive, to heal, and to restore.”
There’s so much to unpack from this amazing story, but as you can probably tell from the book description, this is probably too intense for very young readers (I’m thinking the 0-8 year range).
Parents, please use discretion and your instincts when deciding to introduce this book to your children. But I really think it’s not a question of if you should introduce this book, but when.
While this book wasn’t written primarily from a sex education perspective, I’m including it on my list of recommended resources because it does cover sex … and some very adult topics … in its biography of this remarkable woman. Here’s my breakdown:
1. Sex education for young children.
“In those days just after the turn of the century, sex was never discussed, even at home.”
Corrie writes the above sentence when recounting how she was baffled by the word “sexsin” in a poem she had read at school – she thinks she was 10 or 11 at the time.
She asks her mother what “sexsin” is, who only blushes and remains silent. (I cover this “They’ll Figure It Out” approach to sex education in a previous blog post.) She then turns to her father for answers.
Instead of answering her question directly, her father asks her to try carrying his suitcase, which happens to be lying nearby. She tries to pick it up, but finds it too heavy for her.
In the same way, her father explains, some things in life – specifically, the question she is asking – are too heavy right now for her to carry. Until she is older, her father says, she must trust that her father will carry those things for her until she is mature and independent enough to carry them on her own.
This story touches me deeply, and I can see the wisdom in that approach. On the other hand, parents can sometimes make the mistake of waiting too long, and giving too little information on this subject. Today children as young as 6-8 years are being exposed to porn.
If your children have already heard sexual slurs or topics, or if they’ve been exposed to sexual matters early, you need to be a trusted voice to help them understand the situation, along with potential dangers, as soon as possible.
2. Unrequited love in male-female relationships.
As Corrie grows older, she meets the handsome Karel and begins a long, complex relationship with him. At first it’s an innocent crush. But then her affection appears to be returned. They go on long walks together. They talk about all manner of things…
“…and suddenly we were speaking not about what Karel was going to do, but about what we were going to do. We imagined that we had a huge old manse like this one to decorate, and rejoiced to discover that we had the same ideas about furniture, flowers, even the same favorite colors. Only about children did we disagree: Karel wanted four, while I held out stubbornly for six. And all this while the word ‘marriage’ was never spoken.”
It turns out that Karel was never serious about Corrie. Years later he comes to her and introduces her to his fiancee, and somehow Corrie manages to hold herself together for their visit until they leave, and she goes to her room to weep “over the one love of my life.”
Her father comes to her and comforts her with these words:
Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.
There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
God loves Karel – even more than you do – and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way.”
What a gift Corrie’s father gave to her in that moment – real understanding, not just platitudes or dodging the issue. Real hope and trust in the One who loves us so much more than we could ever imagine. This is such a powerful testimony and conversation starter, especially when read aloud together as a family.
3. The ‘sex talk’ for young adults.
When Corrie’s mother suffers a cerebral hemorrhage that leaves her unable to speak except for three words – “Yes,” “No,” and “Corrie” – her mother bursts into tears one night before the wedding of one of her daughters.
After a series of questions, Corrie finds out her mother is crying because “the solemn mother-daughter talk promised over the years for this night, the entire sex education which our taciturn society provided, was now not possible. … [t]his was ritual: the older woman counseling the younger one down through the centuries – one could no more have gotten married without it than one could have dispensed with the ring.”
Obviously this was a different world from the one we now inhabit!
The great advantage of this type of ritual is how personal it is. The sex education isn’t coming from some stranger or outside, indifferent influence. It’s transmitted directly from mother to daughter, or “older woman counseling the younger one.”
The great disadvantage of this ritual, from my perspective, is how limited it is in scope and sequence. Instead of this being a natural unfolding of education throughout the child’s lifetime, it’s like taking 5 minutes to do a crash course in studying before the exam!
4. Pointing to Christ and His nakedness on the cross.
In one of the most poignant scenes in Ravensbruck, the Nazi death camp, Corrie remembers Fridays and “the recurrent humiliation of medical inspection.” All the prisoners were required to undress completely in a chilly hospital corridor to be examined:
Still we were forbidden even to wrap ourselves in our own arms, but had to maintain our erect, hands-at-sides position as we filed slowly past a phalanx of grinning guards. How there could have been any pleasure in the sight of these stick-thin legs and hunger-bloated stomachs I could not imagine. Surely there is no more wretched sight than the human body unloved and uncared for. …
But it was one of those mornings while we were waiting, shivering, in the corridor, that yet another page in the Bible leapt into life for me.
He hung naked on the cross.
I had not known – I had not thought. … The paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at the least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh – at the time itself, on that other Friday morning – there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now.
I leaned toward Betsie, ahead of me in line. Her shoulder blades stood out sharp and thin beneath her blue-mottled skin.
“Betsie, they took His clothes, too.”
Ahead of me I heard a little gasp. “Oh Corrie. And I never thanked Him. …”
If it were not for this moment in Corrie’s testimony, I also may have made the mistake of not realizing (or even thinking about) my Savior’s nakedness as He hung on the cross.
Truly there is no way to comprehend the magnitude of all He sacrificed for us – being exposed to this indignity is just one of the many terrors He experienced. However, in our “Christian bubble” we can sometimes downplay or even minimize the full weight of Jesus’ suffering that is inherent in our faith. Friends, this is never a comfortable or even pleasant topic to discuss, but it is so crucial.
Until we more completely understand the crucifixion, we can never fully appreciate the resurrection.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV
I hope this review gives you some fresh insights and inspiration in how to incorporate sex education with your children in a holistic, literature-focused approach. Let me know if there’s a specific resource you’d like me to review next!