California Farmer 231:6 (Sept. 20, 1969), p. 22.
The life of Olympia Fulvia Morata (1526–1555) is very remote to us now. The brilliant daughter of a great Italian scholar, she herself became famous as a writer and a philosopher. But, for a girl brought up in very good circumstances, her life was especially stormy. Her early years were in the luxury and gayety of court life. When she moved to Germany with her husband, Andrew Grunthler, they were trapped in the siege of Schweinfurt, in Franconia for nine months. There was death outside the walls, and within, the plague, which killed half the population. Andrew himself came close to death from it. The city was seized, and they lost all their cherished possessions in the fire and pillage and fled for their lives. As they fled, her husband was taken prisoner. Reunited, they went to Heidelberg in 1554, where Andrew was to be professor of medicine, but within two years, Olympia was dead, and shortly thereafter, her husband and brother died; their health had been broken by the siege, famine, and plague experiences. All three were buried in the Chapel of St. Peter at Heidelberg.
It was a short and hard life for a remarkable and brilliant girl who had been brought up in association with royalty, nobility, and scholars. But Olympia, a devout Christian, declared, “The prize of life comes not from learning, but from conflict and trial.” Well, there can be too much conflict and trial, and certainly Olympia had more than her share of it, but she never complained. On the contrary, she felt that it was the making of her.
Today we fight shy from conflict and trial. We want to spare ourselves and our children from all problems and trials. But, as one biologist has observed, “Man is a bad weather animal,” that is, man thrives and progresses in terms of troubles and testing.
The problem today is that too many people, young and old, are untried and untested, and they are, moreover, rebelling against the very principle of testing. Some claim that even school tests are wrong. In all this, they are not only foolish, but very wrong. The Biblical word for “purity” means tested, refined by fire. We tend to think of purity as something fresh, virginal, untouched, cellophane wrapped, but the Biblical word has the meaning of old and tested, refined, experienced, and purged of dross by fire.
Olympia was grateful for her testing. We can pray and trust that we and our loved ones be spared the extremities of her trials, but we cannot pray that we be spared from testing by the fires of conflict and trial. It is God’s means of refining man: “ and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:13).