I’ve been trudging through Fox’s Book of Martyrs. It’s been on the coffee table, the shelf in the bathroom and is currently traveling to and from the place of employment in the back seat. The constant echo as I read on and on is “put a face on it.” The ongoing, endless, bloody tortures, one right after another, risk redundancy and an ultimate emotional shutdown, chilling further reactionary heartbreak over each disembowelment, decapitation, sawing, boiling, broiling, and burning at the stake. The little voice repeats itself over and over in my mind — put a face on her. Put a face on him, someone you know, someone you love.
Jane’s mention of Fox’s Book of Martyrs reminded me of my personal struggle with it many years ago. As I read the book, I became squeamish about being burnt at the stake. It made me nauseous to think that this could happen to me.
It bothered me so much that I prayed to the Lord about it. “Lord, if Your desire for me is to be a martyr, I volunteer for it. Chop off my head. Shoot me. Poison me. Knife me. Drown me. Put me in boiling oil. Stone me. Drop me from the Empire State Building. But please Lord, don’t burn me at the stake. I’m not sure that I will be an effective martyr for You if that method is used on me.”
At the time of this prayer, I was working for a motel chain. Mostly I was a maintenance man, but a couple days a week, I delivered the “Meals on Wheels” for three senior citizen centers.
One day, I was removing a large pan of meat from an oven. As I turned to put it on the counter, the pan shifted in my hand and scalding water poured over my hand. One hundred and seventy-five degrees. Two cooks ran to help. One told me to put my hand under the water; and the other was poised to call an ambulance.
I did not move. I just stood there looking at my dripping wet hand. It was red. There was pain. But yet, the pain was only on the surface of the hand, not on the inner part of the hand. It was bearable. In fact, it did not bother me that much.
Eventually, the cook grabbed me and put my hand under the faucet. I did it more to calm her down than to relieve my pain. Within seconds, my hand was back to normal.
This experience quieted my fears about being burnt at the stake or any form of martydom. I believe there is a special grace placed on martyrs to endure the suffering and still be the effective witness that the Lord needs for the people watching on.