In this story from August 1976, the author of The Hiding Place recalls her watchmaker father’s timeless advice.
Some of my happiest days came when it was decided that I could work in the shop as an assistant to my kindly, bearded father. I loved being with him and I loved the shop itself. It had a very special atmosphere, and gradually I began to overcome my shyness and insecurity in meeting people, and I enjoyed selling the watches and clocks to our customers.
There were many ups and downs in the watchmaking business. Father loved his work, but he was not a money-maker, and times were often hard. Once I remember we were faced with a real financial crisis. A large bill had to be paid, and there simply wasn’t enough money. Then one day a well-dressed gentleman came into the shop and asked to see some very expensive watches. I stayed in the workshop and prayed, with one ear tuned to the conversation in the front room.
“Mmm … this is a fine watch. Mr. ten Boom,” the customer said, turning a very costly timepiece over in his hands. “This is just what I’ve been looking for.”
I held my breath as I saw the affluent customer reach into his inner pocket and pull out a thick wad of bills. Praise the Lord—cash! (I saw myself paying the overdue bill and being relieved of the burden of anxiety I had been carrying for the past few weeks.)
The customer looked at the watch admiringly and commented, “I had a good watchmaker here in Haarlem … his name was van Houten. Perhaps you knew him.”
Father nodded his head He knew almost everyone in Haarlem, especially other watchmakers.
“When van Houten died and his son took over the business, I kept on doing business with the young man. However, I bought a watch from him that didn’t run at all. I sent it back three times, but he couldn’t seem to fix it. That’s why I decided to find another watchmaker.”
“Will you show me that watch, please?” Father said.
The man took a large watch out of his vest and gave it to Father.
“Now, let me see,” Father said, opening the back of the watch. He adjusted some thing and handed it back to the customer “There that was a very little mistake. It will be fine now. Sir, I trust the young watchmaker. Someday he wilt be just as good as his father. So if you ever have a problem with one of his watches, come to me. I’ll help you out, Now I shall give you back your money and you return my watch.”
I was horrified. I saw Father take back the watch and give the money to the customer. Then he opened the door for him and bowed deeply in his old-fashioned way.
My heart was where my feet should be as I emerged from the shelter of the workshop.
“Papa! How could you?”
Father looked at me patiently through his steel-rimmed glasses.
“Corrie,” he said, “you know that I brought the Gospel at the burial of Mr. van Houten.”
Of course I remembered. It was Father’s job to speak at the burials of the watchmakers in Haarlem. He was greatly loved by his colleagues and was also a very good speaker; he always used the occasion to talk about the Lord Jesus.
“Corrie, what do you think that young man would have said when he heard that one of his good customers had gone to Mr. ten Boom? Do you think that the name of the Lord would be honored? As for the money, trust the Lord, Corrie. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He will take care of us.”
I felt ashamed and I knew that Father was right. I wondered if I could ever have that kind of trust instead of blind determination to follow my own stubborn path. Could I really learn to trust God?
“Yes, Father,” I answered quietly. Whom was I answering? My earthly father or my Father in Heaven?
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