It was the last leg of a very long trip for me. A fun and fulfilling trip, but a long one. The trip I took to Europe last year was taxing both physically and emotionally. I took in so much wisdom, so many stories, and a good amount of chocolate. Europe was full to the brim with meaning for me. It still impacts my life to this day.
We were in Eisenach, Germany, at Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther did the unthinkable and translated the Bible into German, a language that his people could understand without having to rely on the Catholic church. His translation essentially changed the world forever. He did it all on pain of death – even his friends risked their lives for his work.
Wartburg Castle is an incredible bastion overlooking the Eisenach countryside. Set atop a high, sheer cliff, it takes a good many flights of stairs just to reach the portcullis. The courtyard teems with birds, vines, and tourists. Walking into the fortress, you feel the history in the High Middle Ages architecture. It’s almost as though you can feel its meaning, even if you didn’t know anything about it.
Now I’m sort of a medieval nerd, so I loved exploring an ancient castle with centuries of history. I loved standing in the very room where Luther lived and wrote and cried out to God. When I finished the semi guided tour I found a quiet spot at one of the higher points in the courtyard to look over the countryside past the great walls of the fortress.
I found myself in a quiet moment where I could meditate, mull over the history I had just stepped into. What was I supposed to do with all that I had just seen? In that quiet moment, I opened my heart to God. Your servant is listening. Even on that spiritually-saturated trip, I was sometimes starved from the voice of God, allowing my busyness to take me from one event to the next. Now, he had me where he wanted me. And in that moment he spoke into my soul and his words will ring in the caverns of my mind forever.
“Be a Luther.”
Those words caught me by surprise on that quiet day. What could that possibly mean? After learning all the things that Luther had done, I was dumbfounded. How could I possibly do all of the things that he did? Where would I even start?
It’s mind-boggling to think of a legacy that spans generations. Think of the people from hundreds, even thousands of years ago, that we still talk about today. I mean there’s a reason we talk about some presidents more than others. Some of them made a bigger impact than others. Did they know that their legacy would be talked about decades later? Maybe they did, because they were president. But I don’t think they thought that when they were in their mid-twenties and still figuring out who they were going to be.
There are people living today that people will still talk about generations from now. You could be one of them.
You’re probably thinking exactly what I was thinking as I sat on that hilltop – How? I can’t do all the things Martin Luther did. Luther changed the way people approach God. His legacy was just celebrated 500 years later in Germany and in other reformed churches across the world – because he changed the way we do things.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was true. I could be a Luther. It started to make sense to me. Here’s what I figured out:
While he was living, Luther couldn’t have possibly known the impact he would make. Most of his days were spent thinking he was going to get killed for what he was doing. Then the Catholic church would have burned his Bible translation and it would’ve all been over. He started with faith, not this grandiose feeling of greatness. He had faith that God would use Him in any way He saw fit.
To be basic for a minute and quote from the musical Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton sings at the moment of his death, “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden that you’ll never see.” Everyone who is walking on this earth right now is planting seeds. Those seeds will grow in some way or another – you’ll either grow a garden for your descendants or your roots will die with you. Part of that responsibility lies with you and how you live your life.
God’s hand is in that as well, as it was in Luther’s life. Luther dedicated his life to Christ after a particularly terrifying storm (that crap can get scary.) He was willing to face excommunication and even death in order to spread God’s word to more people. Luther obviously wasn’t a perfect man, but he did his best to remain faithful to the Lord. Our life ultimately belongs to the Lord, and He will use it the way He sees fit.
Along with that, Luther stood on the shoulders of mountain-movers who came before him. Luther was born far after the Reformation had begun, he just happened to be a fairly big catalyst who helped move it along. And as he continued his work he surrounded himself with faithful people who also wanted to spread the Gospel. He certainly didn’t do it on his own.
Gardens don’t grow overnight. A tree starts as a sapling and takes years, even decades, to grow into a mighty oak. As it grows it changes the landscape around it, its roots grow deep, and its branches stretch tall. But it needs time and good soil. Unlike a tree, you have a choice in how you nurture yourself. Will you commit your life to a God who will deepen your roots?
Will you trust your growth to a Sovereign Lord?