Katherina von Bora Luther: Clinging to Christ

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take youreveryday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2 MSG)

What went through Katherina von Bora’s mind in the darkness of the fish barrel?

Katherina, or Katie as she has become known to history, had been born on January 29, 1499 to a noble family that had lost its wealth. Less than a decade later, she entered a convent, and took her vows seven years later to become a nun in 1515.

But she wasn’t content in the convent.

Thanks to the invention of the printing press, the writings of reformer Martin Luther were circulated among the nuns at the convent. Soon, they, too, questioned the teachings of the Catholic church.

Despite vows of silence, Katie and 11 other nuns managed to contact Luther and concoct a plan to escape, even though such an action was illegal. One night, when a delivery of fish was made to the convent, the driver unloaded the fish from 12 barrels and replaced the fish with the 12 nuns.

The women were taken to Luther. Now free from the rules of the convent, they had a choice to find a different, less restrictive convent or to go back home or to find a husband.

On the last count, they had a willing matchmaker. There were a number of similarly-situated former monks in his company, and he began pairing them off.

Finding a husband for the lively Katie, however, proved to be a challenge. One match failed because he considered her to be too feisty. Another failed because she considered her potential husband to be too sanctimonious.

That left Martin Luther himself.

He wasn’t exactly thrilled about the match, commenting “I never loved Katie then for I suspected her of being proud (as she is), but God willed me to take pity on the poor abandoned girl.”

But time and companionship change people.

Through the years, Katie proved herself to be a “Proverbs 31 woman on steroids,” as biographer Ruth Tucker described her. She raised the children, took care of the home, grew food, brewed beer, drove wagons, bought farms, cared for the sick, sewed clothing and more all while holding her own in discussions with her husband and his colleagues.

By the time Luther died, he had come to trust Katie’s judgment, skill and intellect so deeply that he broke with the law of the time to leave everything to her.

After his death, Katie continued to raise their youngest children on her own, and survived a war in which her farm was destroyed. The resourceful woman took out a loan to rebuild, and then took in boarders at the farm to help repay the loan.

When plague broke out in 1552, Katie, like many others, decided to leave Wittenberg for the safety of Torgau. During the journey, Katie was forced to leap from her wagon when her horses bolted. She was rescued, but the injuries were too much for her, and she died on December 20, 1522.

“I will cling to my Lord Christ as a burr on a coat,” were her last words.

Katie Luther has an extraordinary story. It’s not filled with miracles or martyrdom. It doesn’t include divine visions or a solitary life.

Her escape from the convent is extraordinary. Her ability stand as a equal with her larger-than-life husband is extraordinary. Her wisdom in running her household was extraordinary.

But, on that latter part, Katie is so much like so many women I know today. Mothers who are taking care of toddlers while pursuing a career. Widows who have raised their children and now focus their energies on volunteer service in their community. Single women who tend to their aging parents.

And all of them doing so while making sure there’s food on the table, the house is clean and warm, the laundry is done and everyone in the household is healthy.

What you do may be considered ordinary in the eyes of the world. When you do those things with a mind to serve the Lord and his kingdom, it becomes extraordinary.

How can you infuse your everyday activities with the joy and spirit of the Lord?

***

This is the tenth post in my Write 31 Days series for 2017 in which I am taking a devotional look at key women in Christian history. For more information, or to start the series from the beginning, visit the introductory post.

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