For the last three years, Milford Bible Church has put together a Renaissance Faire based on the events surrounding the Protestant Reformation. We call it the Reformation Celebration or, more affectionately, Ref Cel. The amount of work that goes into this production would be difficult to overstate. Many talented people pour themselves into various projects which funnel towards turning our campus into a living history celebration of heroes of the faith.
A few months after the 2018 Ref Cel, I was approached about helping to research and write for the next year’s program. It centered around the life and work of William Tyndale. The prospect both terrified and excited me. I was still struggling with my health, and feared involvement of any measure, lest I fail and disappoint. But the urge to finally use my love for writing as a benefit to my church family overcame my fears.
“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing…”
Just weeks before, I had questioned why God gave me a desire to write. What good does it do anyone? Why do I feel like I have a slow leak when I haven’t put pen to paper in over 24 hours? Is it all for self? I was in a low place, still reeling from my recent diagnosis of PTSD, and wondering if I would ever be of any use to anyone again.
By June 2019, I was vigorously writing and researching the life of William Tyndale, which poured over into the wild and fascinating life of King Henry VIII. I read books, watched documentaries, and researched old genealogical documents, delving into events that had always fascinated me from a distance, but now enthralled me as I attempted to bring them to life.
I went in clueless. It was more or less my first real writing job. I had a real deadline (which I missed) and real people depending on me to do my best. I cried over my inadequacy and trembled whenever I sent a sketch to my coworkers.
But the wildest part of it all was the innumerable blessings I received as a result.
“…And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us…”
I felt useful again. My church family, the people I love and worship with, were blessed by my work and effort. In addition, my health was improving and I even received an honorable mention in a short story contest. My blessings bubbled over when I discovered I was pregnant. My life, after so many months of darkness, suddenly began to blossom.
One night, while thanking the Lord for all the beauty in my life, I said, “I don’t know what will happen next, but please, whatever it is, just don’t let me go.”
“…For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate…”
I was pregnant for less than a week. It happened so fast. The inexpressible joy, the wild inability to stop telling people about that little life nestled inside me. Then the sight of the blood that marked the beginning of the end. It sent me into a wild tailspin of doubt and depression.
After being raised in a home and church tradition that showed love with cold and vindictive wounds, I found myself recalling past teachings of a Righteous and Holy God devoid of grace. This is my second miscarriage. The second time I’ve had to experience the trauma of flushing my child down the toilet. The second time I’ve had to endure callous comments from people who claim to be pro-life. I wanted to scream, but instead, I spent a day watching horror movies in an act of emotional cutting, scarring my mind so my nightmares would be full of demons and violence instead of visions of the child I would never hold.
Ref Cel was days away. And I wasn’t the only person involved suffering a personal tragedy. While I was curled up on my bathroom tiles, Satan was in full attack mode, and his apparent target seemed to be the Reformation Celebration at Milford Bible Church.
Because of the austere and separatist version of Christianity I grew up in, it feels dramatic, almost pagan, to say that Satan was trying to stop an event at my church. Like I’m invoking some magical knowledge of spiritual forces. Like I’m the witch of Endor. But I cannot shake the belief that this was true. We went from a difficult task to insurmountable odds overnight, and the willing, working hands involved were all scarred and bloodstained.
“…The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him…”
In the vacuum of pain surrounding me, I felt something take hold. The faithful and ever-present Spirit of God reminded me of my prayer. Please, don’t let me go.
Please, don’t let any of us go.
A strength that I knew was not my own woke inside me. I threw myself into the effort. Despite my inward emotional strain, I found the courage and strength to do things that I know are not my gifts. I became an actress, a painter, an interior decorator, and used power tools. This wild burst of energy came from above in the breath of the Spirit. And not only to me. I watched it kiss the willing hearts and tired hands of all those who stepped in the gap to rescue the event.
I wept with joy over the beautiful experience I had working with the men and women who threw themselves into the spaces that needed filling. How strong and capable they all seemed to me, despite their adamant insistence that they had no clue what they were doing. None of us did. But all of us did. God refused to let us go.
“…The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth…”
I felt some discouragement among my brothers and sisters when the number of attendees to Ref Cel was down from last year. But, for me, the experience was deeper and broader than a count. It showed me how much God can do with a broken heart and a willing pair of hands. In the midst of my silent loss and the visible pain of people I loved, the family of Milford Bible Church encouraged me by refusing to let the devil win. They stayed late, came early, skipped meals, lost sleep, prayed, and laughed together. I grew in my faith through adversity by their silent witness, even though most of them did not know of my personal suffering.
Beloved Christian, in any circumstance, know that your silent willingness, your difficult sacrifice, or simple word of praise, can be the means by which huge blessings can be won for God’s eternal kingdom.
Thank you to everyone who participated in Ref Cel. To the ones who invited me to be a part. To the ones who acted, baked cookies, built sets, ran off copies, and steamed out the wrinkles in the curtains lining the hallways. Your faithfulness brought me renewed purpose, renewed hope, and increased faith.
My Beloved family at Milford Bible Church is the only family I have ever really known. I am broken for and with you. 2019 was hell for me. I lost my way so many times. But you all, with your persistent love, each quiet hug, and sincere smile, protected me from losing my faith. If you’re reading this, know that I was so discouraged, that I held the tiniest moments of love and joy with me during my dark hours this year. During the weeks I spent in the basement of my house, crying and praying for healing to come. Those of you who caught me with a hug as I fled the building on a Sunday, or forgave me for standing you up again and again, you have taught me more about the love of Jesus in one blessed year, than I have known in the 31 years that came before them.
Your faithfulness to the word of God was the beacon that held me on course through a storm of mental illness, physical pain, and heavy loss. Brothers and sisters, you were Christ’s hands and feet to me. I love you with a jealous and passionate love that breaks my heart for you when you suffer and craves your silent witness when I fall apart.
May the change you’ve wrought in people like me increase your count an hundredfold.
And Father God, may I not forget all these blessings. I don’t know what you have planned for us next, but please, whatever it is, just don’t let us go.
“…Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.”
~ A Mighty Fortress, Martin Luther