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It was in June 2018 that this extraordinary thing happened.
I was on a visit to my younger son and his wife, who live and work in the cultural city of Heidelberg, in southwestern Germany. Having spent the morning sightseeing ― Heidelberg, home to Germany’s oldest university, is charged with history ―, I returned home, took a book, and went to sit in the garden. It was early afternoon, and the sky was lightly overcast. The air felt warm, there was hardly any breeze. A few yards to my left stood an old tree trunk, about nine feet high, whose branches had been cut off.
I was sitting there reading my book when, all of a sudden, a lightning struck. I saw the bright flash on either side of the trunk and at the same time heard the crushing roar of thunder, like cannon fire. A burning smell diffused in the air, but nothing was in flames.
Neighbours sprang to their balconies to see what happened. It took me a minute to realize that the thunderbolt had struck so close to me.
It is in our nature to compare the extraordinary things that happen to us with those of great men, and more often than not, with what the Son of Man had gone through. When I mentally re-enacted the event a few hours later, my mind went to Martin Luther who had a similar experience during a journey to Erfurt in July 1505. As the twenty-two -year-old law student was crossing the fields near Stotternheim, a terrible storm broke out, and a thunderbolt struck very close to him. The young man fell to the ground praying, and took a vow, there and then, to become a monk. “Ich will ein Mönch werden“. The words of the decision that changed the course of his days and the history of the world are engraved on a commemorative stone near the spot.
A Christian and a purist to the core, Martin Luther put his own life on the line, and stood firm by his faith against almighty Papal authority. In his sermons and writings, the founder of Protestantism emphasised the value of Grace over punishment and made the Bible accessible to the common man in a plain language that spoke to his heart. “We must become each other’s cover of shame” are the nicest words ever spoken by a religious leader.
Three weeks later I left the city of Heidelberg, with the experience in my spiritual luggage. I often recall its reality, the lightning flash trembling in front of me. The bolt that struck so close on that warm summer afternoon, I interpret it as a reminder of God’s infinite grace. Such experiences lead me to believe that we are all part of a highly intricate, inaccessible design whose Author has left nothing to chance. As the Lord declares in Isaiah “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts”.
by Costas Nisiotis
Athens, Greece - firstname.lastname@example.org
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