Only five more miles. Martin had already walked forty and his legs were aching. He was hoping to find a nice place to stop and eat the bread his mother packed for him back in Mansfeld. It had threatened rain all day but it wasn’t until he was on the edge of the little village of Stotternheim that the skies finally opened up. A long and rolling growl of thunder echoed across the field and the rain came down like a waterfall.
He was drenched but his first concern was for the schoolbooks in his satchel – Aristotle, William of Ockham, and Gabriel Biel. He couldn’t afford to replace them if they were ruined. Off to the southwest, Martin spotted a small stand of trees and began to run for them. That’s when the first lightning bolt hit. Behind him, close enough to smell it, followed by a clap of thunder that rang in his ears like church-bells.
Martin had always been afraid of lightning, helpless against it. As a child, he would hide under his bed and pray for the saints to deliver him from the supernatural evil. Now, as he ran terrified through the mud and knee-high grass, he felt like a little child again, fleeing from the devil at his heels. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as a second bolt struck even nearer.
Martin reached the sheltering trees and fell into a ball at the base of the biggest one. He was crying now, thinking about death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
“Help!” he cried, “Saint Anna! I will become a monk!”
On July 17th, 1505, Martin Luther told his friends at the College of St. George at Erfurt University, “This day you see me, and then, not ever again.”
Not quite so.