Today I’m thankful for a rat. I can’t think of any other time in my life where I have been thankful for a rat. It turns out a rat has helped to keep my Stepmom safe.
My Stepmom lives in a senior adult community in Houston, Texas, with her brother. Cleanliness has always been important to her. This became an issue for her in the apartment complex where they were living. Corners were being cut, and the complex was not being kept clean. Then a rat found its way into their apartment! To make it worse, my Stepmom had given her bed to one of her Granddaughters. While she was waiting for her new bed to arrive, she was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Could this be an issue with a rat running around? A new apartment complex was being built, and they put their names on the waiting list. Last December an apartment came open for them. The prospect of moving was not appealing, but the rat pushed them over the edge! Instead of decorating for Christmas, they moved to a new apartment.
In the last few days, I received a text from my Stepmom. They are really liking their new apartment, and the complex is being kept clean. During this COVID-19 pandemic, the complex is following all of the recommendations from the CDC. There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in their complex. Sadly, in their last complex there have been three COVID-19 related deaths. She wrote: “Looks like that rat was a blessing. It got us out of there before a much bigger problem came in”.
This makes me think about a story Corrie ten Boom, one of my spiritual heroes, told in her book “The Hiding Place”. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it! Corrie and her family lived in Haarlem, Holland, when World War II broke out. She had a quiet life until Germany invaded Holland. Corrie and her family became part of the resistance and hid those who were Jewish from the Nazis. Although they were successful for a long time, eventually they were arrested. Corrie, her older sister Betsie, and their Father were all sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany. Betsie and their Father died there. The story I’m thinking about has to do with fleas.
Betsie and Corrie were in Barracks 28, their new home. It was an unhappy realization to find the barracks were infested with fleas. While Corrie was complaining about the fleas, Betsie had a profound revelation. They had managed to smuggle in a Bible, and Betsie wanted Corrie to go back to the verses from their morning Bible study. What she was looking for is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. It says: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”1 Betsie was excited about the concept of giving thanks to God for everything. She told Corrie they needed to thank God for everything in their new barracks. Corrie went along with this until Betsie said they needed to thank God for the fleas. Corrie said: “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”2
Originally both Corrie and Betsie went out on work details. Eventually Betsie became too weak and sick to continue doing the work details. Betsie was assigned to stay in Barracks 28 during the day to darn socks with other weak prisoners. One day Corrie returned from scavenging for sticks to burn in the stoves used for heat, and Betsie couldn’t wait to tell her what she had learned! They had been mystified why the guards never came into their barracks, and they had the freedom to lead large Bible studies. That afternoon Betsie and some of the other inmates asked a guard to come and resolve a problem they were having with their knitting. The guard refused to enter the barracks because of the fleas! Corrie’s mind went back to the prayer of thanks Betsie gave for the fleas, which didn’t make sense to her at the time. 3
Do we have the faith to give God thanks for all things? As we travel through this most unusual Holy Week, can we thank God for COVID-19? What good is God going to bring out of this pandemic? Even without a pandemic, Holy Week is always a difficult time for me. I find it hard to be thankful for the cross, which was an ugly tool of torture used to kill Jesus. Yet, as dark as Holy Week gets, I know the light of Easter is coming. With awe I recognize God was able to take the cross, a symbol of death, and change it into a symbol of hope. This week I’m thanking God for rats, fleas, COVID-19, and the cross.
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Further thoughts: As I tried to write this article, my computer gave me problems. It kept saying “Word has quit responding”. How do we respond to problems like this? I decided each time to thank God, play my ukulele, then try the computer again.
1. New Revised Standard Version of the Bible
2. Corrie ten Boom & John & Elizabeth Sherill, The Hiding Place, 1971, PP. 197-199
3. Corrie ten Boom & John & Elizabeth Sherill, The Hiding Place, 1971, PP. 208-209