Lisbeth looked back but kept running. No one was there. The barn was close by and trees were beyond that. She knew just where to hide in the woods. She panted, muscles straining. The little book was safe in her apron pocket. Just a few more strides—
That’s all Lisbeth could remember. How long she had lain there in the woods she did not know, but the shadows were longer than they had been. She leaned on her elbows to sit up. The trees, bushes, and barn began to spin around her. Her head hurt where she had bumped it. She shut her eyes and lay down once more. She heard voices coming from the direction of the barn and house. She tried to discern what they were saying. That’s when she remembered. She groaned.
The soldiers had come to the house. She was cleaning there for her uncle when they burst in. She knew Uncle Peter owned a copy of the Gospel of Matthew translated into English by Tyndale. The newly printed book lay on the very shelf she was dusting. The soldiers were likely seeking exactly that! She shoved the booklet into her pocket and ran.
“A girl!” she heard one of the soldiers shout as she passed through the back entry of the modest English manor.
“A girl is of no importance,” another officer responded.
That was all Lisbeth knew before she ran through the manor grounds and tripped and fell in the woods. Now she felt the copy of the gospel safe in her pocket, but she dared not get up. Soldiers could be waiting anywhere. The king of England was not happy about common people being able to read and study the Bible in their own language, and Sir Thomas More, one of the most powerful men under the king, despised it. To own such manuscripts was a capital offense. Books were being burned—along with the people who owned them. Uncle Peter was in great danger. And now, so was Lisbeth.
There were no more voices for a long time. Birds began to sing their evening song. Finally Lisbeth pulled herself up and crept through the woods to her own house. Her father would know what to do. Uncle Peter had shown the Scriptures to them. They had tasted of the truth of the Word of God, and now there was no going back as they began to understand and love the words they read and heard. Lisbeth clutched the beloved pages in her hand.
She found her father and breathlessly told him what happened, giving him the printed book.
“You were brave, Lisbeth. The soldiers took Uncle Peter, but they have already released him.” Father pointed to the translated gospel that would have meant death for his brother. “Here is the evidence against him that they could not find.” He hugged his daughter, and thanked God for their present safety. Then he stored the precious volume in a hiding place that no one would find.
Let us never take the Scriptures for granted, even now in the year of our Lord 2009.