This article was written for previous Eternal Encouragement magazine produced by Mrs. Lori Flem of Eternal Encouragement. For the life of her, however, Lori Flem can't remember who wrote it! But it was me!!
Martin Luther's Rib
Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
We are all familiar with Mrs. Flem's being Randy's Rib, but long before Lorrie, there was another wife that was well known for being her husband's rib. That was Katherine Von Bora, Mrs. Martin Luther. One of Luther's many pet names for his wife was "Katie, my rib".
When Katie, born with the name, Katherine, was 10 her widower father remarried and sent her to live in a convent where her aunt served. At 16, she took her vows to become a nun.
What is amazing is how God used this time to prepare her for her future ministry. She learned . . .
- to feed large groups of people
- to manage to a large facility
- taking care of livestock
- medicine and healing
- and everything else involved with running an abbey smoothly
A skill unknown to most women at that time was reading. Living in the convent gave her the opportunity to learn. She read in both German and Latin.
It was reading that would change her future.
The nuns read the Bible, but also books from many theologians. Some of the booklets Martin Luther had written had found their way into the hands of nuns. What Luther taught made Katherine and others reconsider what they had been taught and their role as nuns.
One of the things Luther taught was that only grace that would get you into heaven, not good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). This was a challenge to those nuns who had spent their whole lives depending on their good works to get them to heaven.
He also taught about the "priesthood of all believers" (I Peter 2:9) which meant that all believers, regardless of their vocation, had equal access to God. Being a priest, monk, or nun did not mean you could serve God better than being a banker, teacher, or mother.
After much prayer and study, a dozen nuns including young Katherine decided they wanted to leave the convent. This was no easy matter. Running away from a convent could be punished by death!
This little group of nuns sent a secret message to Luther asking for help escaping.
Escape came on the eve of Easter 1523 in the form of herring barrels. A merchant friend of Luther's hid the nuns inside empty (and stinky) herring barrels and transported them to freedom.
Luther encouraged the nuns to return home if their families would accept them. For a few others, he found husbands.
Katherine had some suitors, but none that satisfied her. In fact, she told Luther's friend the only man she would marry would be Luther!
Luther was hesitant for awhile to marry. For awhile, both the pope and a prince wanted him dead. He did not want to leave a widow. Eventually, he began to reconsider and with encouragement asked Katherine to marry him. He was 41 and she was 26 when they married two weeks later.
Life did not slow down for Luther after he married Katherine, and God had more than prepared Katherine to jump right into life and ministry with her husband. She ran the 40-room monastery in which they lived with their children, her aunt, and up to 16 students who studied with Luther.
She purchased a farm, raised livestock, tended a garden and orchard, fished, and more in order to feed all those whom God brought under their roof. Many if not all of these skills she learned while she was in the convent.
Her skills in medicine also came in handy. Luther dealt with kidney stones, gout, and "digestive disorders" in addition to other illness that Katherine was able to help. She saved his life several times with her healing skills.
Luther also suffered with bouts of depression that occasionally left him bedridden. Katherine was able to pray and nurse him through these tough times as well.
One time was so severe; she took things to the extreme to make her point. She dressed all in black as if mourning. When Luther saw her, he asked if someone had died. She acted surprised and said,
"Haven't you heard? God is dead!"
"Then why are you acting as if He were dead?"
Katherine asked. Luther got the point.
Through 21 years of marriage, she ministered to her husband and with her husband.
What are some of the things I have learned from Mrs. Luther?
- How you start out does not matter; whom you follow along the way does.
- Learn whatever skills and knowledge God gives you to learn because more than likely, He will use it later.
- A reader is a leader. Read quality and quantity.
- God's way out of a situation may be stinky and cramped, but it works.
- Ministry to your husband can take many forms in addition to homemaking.
God has given us women throughout history as an example of the influence a godly wife and mother can have not only to her family but also to the world.
Let us all strive to become a "rib" to remember!