I sank deep into sorrow the night I had to leave home and forsake my wife and children. It was raining heavily and a great wind blew. As I hurried down the street, crying, my heart rose in anguish to God: “Oh Lord, you gave me body and soul. You gave me a wife and children to keep and teach, and provide for with your blessing. But the authorities of the land will not allow me to do that. I am grieved beyond measure. Shall my children be scattered or become a burden to others? What wickedness did I do to bring this upon myself?”
My answer came: “Before building a tower, sit down and count the cost.”
“Lord I gave myself to you,” I cried, “I gave myself to you with everything I have and am. But for this, the world chases me from home. I am confused, Lord. Is this what I get for doing right? For leaving the way of sin? It doesn’t seem fair. On the other hand, I can see that I am a great debtor. I can see that I deserve what I am getting for my frequent misbehaviour. But Lord, tell me what shall I do now?”
Another answer came: “The people of the world have places to stay. The birds have nests and the foxes holes. But the Son of Man, no place to lay his head.”
“Oh God,” I replied, “My chief desire is to do your will. If that means giving up my home and goods, I will accept it.”
“That is how it will be,” Christ my Lord said. “You will suffer violence under Jews and heathen, just like I saw them divide my clothes and leave me altogether naked.”
All this caused me great anguish as I fled. Then warrants went out for my arrest as if I were a murderer. But once more the words of Christ came to me: “They arrested me as an evildoer, with swords and spears. They set a crown of thorns on me and spit into my face.”
The preachers are so angry with me that when I came to the house of my relatives they feared to take me in. Once more the words of Christ: “My own received me not. The most ‘scriptural’ of them all, clamour for my crucifixion.”
Oh Lord, when I lament my state, my trouble and woe, people say it is my own fault for thinking myself holier than others. “The same took place with me,” Christ says. “When I asked for a drink they gave me vinegar with gall. They made fun of me on the cross and told me to come down if I was God.”
They call me a rabble-rouser and a deceiver. All the world despises me, and tells me if I preach the truth, to do it from a pulpit. “They called me a devil,” Christ replies, “and remember not to cast my holiness to the dogs, or pearls before swine.”
If I quietly join the church of Christ, if I separate myself from evil, they blame me for doing things in secret. “If you want to please the world,” Christ says, “You cannot be my disciple. Whoever follows me will share my fate.”
That Lord, I believe! As long as I gambled and lived in terrible sin, the world’s people loved me. But now they consider me an evil man. The preachers (much listened to by the world) say we are the most wicked people on earth and call on the authorities to kill us.
Christ answers: “They lumped me in with murderers. They freed Barrabas, but hung me on the cross.”
Oh Lord, who can describe your unspeakably great love, or the mercy
you showed your persecutors? Give me patience! Forgive those that hate
me and do evil to my wife and children.
The conversation could have continued for a long time, but overcome with grief I found my way deep into the woods. There I sat down and wept, “Oh Lord, save me and your church community from the false prophets! Save me from those that lie in wait for my soul! Lord I pray, keep my wife and my little child in your care, and if not against your will, let me see them again.”
On this my final answer came: “If you have built on me I will save you!”
“Lord, now I trust you. Even though I live in sorrow I live in hope!”
Hans Büchel, -ca. 1585, Murtal, Salzburg, Austria
Leader among Anabaptists in Austria and southern Germany.