Nothing makes me think of the passage below from Romans more than the following words by Esther (Etty) Hillesum. It is an extract from her diary and this passage was written when she spent time at Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, while awaiting deportation to Auschwitz in Poland.
Romans 8: 38-39 New International Version
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.“
When I’m out with my dogs in the glorious countryside, it’s easy and natural to feel uplifted in God’s beautiful Creation, and then I think of how Etty Hillesum expressed tears of love and gratitude amidst the horrors of a Nazi camp. She spent all her young life trying to find herself and, in the process, she found God. During her remaining few months, she devoted herself to the needs of those around her in the camp, those who were ravaged by disease and malnutrition and those who were afraid and needed a hand to hold.
She comforted those who prepared to leave on each freight train taking them to the death camp, Auschwitz, until it was her own turn to leave Westerbork. While on the train, Etty wrote a postcard to a friend – “We left the camp singing,” she wrote. She tossed it outside and a farmer later found it and posted it. Shortly after, she was dead at the age of 29.
Etty Hillesum was a remarkable person, yet she wouldn’t think so herself. It was her destiny to arrive at the most tragic and horrific of circumstances, yet her faith in God remained as strong as ever, perhaps even stronger because of it. Her whole life became a series of lessons and truths and nothing could come between her love for God and the need to be true to herself.
Thank You for the life of Etty Hillesum and the example of love she, and many others, left for us to learn from. May we be able to learn by Etty’s testimony in her diaries that love and forgiveness for our enemies is truly possible and that You are with us in all circumstances and that NOTHING can separate us from Your love.
In Jesus Name, Amen.