“God, of your goodness, give me yourself; you are enough for me, and anything less that I could ask for would not do you full honor. And if I ask anything that is less, I shall always lack something, but in you alone I have everything.”
― Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
This Advent season I have been drawn to reading about Julian of Norwich. She lived in the late 1300’s, into the 1400’s and there is some agreement that she was an anchoress, possibly a nun. Also, we are not sure what her real name was.
I had no idea what an anchoress was so I looked it up. “In Christianity, an anchoress is a woman who chooses to withdraw from the world to live a solitary life of prayer and mortification.” When Julian was around 30 years old she grew deathly sick; so sick that the priest was called in to read her the last rites. During that time of sickness she had sixteen dreams, most of which were about the crucifixion of Christ and his great love for his people.
Julian’s most famous quote is this:
“….but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
This beautiful truth came out of Julian’s darkest days. What has to happen in a person that results in a cry of “all is well” out of the shadow of death?
I want to know that all is well. The deep, abiding and intimate knowing….
Do you find yourself in this season facing two kinds of battles where all does not seem well? I do. There are two I can pinpoint pretty easily:
- The battle within myself
- The battle around me
The battle within myself that longs to say “all is well.”
“For truly I saw and understood in our Lord’s meaning that he revealed it because he wants to have it better known than it is. In which knowledge he wants to give us grace to love him and to cleave to him, for he beholds his heavenly treasure with so great love on earth that he will give us more light and solace in heavenly joy, by drawing our hearts from the sorrow and the darkness which we are in.” -Julian of Norwich
God wants to draw our heart into more joy by refocusing our affections to an inner life that is richer than the one that settles for lesser affections.
Here are the very real things, however trivial sounding, that compete for 1st place in my heart:
This Christmas I would like to not raise support. I would like for the tree in my backyard not to fall on my house when the wind blows. I would like for single friends to go to church and not feel less than because we are not a “family.” (Pastors, as a side note, I get more texts on Sunday mornings from single friends talking about how painful church is for them than any other day of the week and they need a pep talk in order to go. All is not well.). There’s the battle about how to respond with genuine love when I feel offended or disagree. There’s the inner battle when my grossness wants to silence others with a manipulative or condescending word regarding their opinions. There’s the battle to be Beth, the friend, and not a professional listener who gives input. There’s the battle to want to reveal Jesus in every word, action and heart intention, even when it is just me in the privacy of my home, yet I do not. I long for 1st things to be 1st.
The battle happens when my 2nd, 3rd, 4th things I mentioned above get placed in 1st.
Can all be well?
The 2nd battle is the one around me that wants me to believe that nothing will ever be well again.
“…deeds are done which appear so evil to us and people suffer such terrible evils that it does not seem as though any good will ever come of them; and we consider this, sorrowing and grieving over it so that we cannot find peace in the blessed contemplation of God as we should do; and this is why: our reasoning powers are so blind now, so humble and so simple, that we cannot know the high, marvelous wisdom, the might and the goodness of the Holy Trinity. And this is what he means where he says, ‘You shall see for yourself that all manner of things shall be well’, as if he said, ‘Pay attention to this now, faithfully and confidently, and at the end of time you will truly see it in the fullness of joy.”
― Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
Paris. Isis. Syria. Refugees. No refugees. Iraq. Afghanistan. California. Colorado. Chattanooga. Trump. Hillary. Bernie. Cruz. Suicide. Depression. Anxiety. Divorce. Affairs. Embezzlement. Marriage equality. Guns. No guns. Women’s inequality. Racial injustice. Cancer. Dementia. Orphans. Widows.
“..we need to fall, and we need to be aware of it; for if we did not fall, we should not know how weak and wretched we are of ourselves, nor should we know our Maker’s marvelous love so fully…” – Julian of Norwich
I want to turn off the news. I wonder what Jesus would think about CNN & Fox News? I know that he would never turn a blind eye and want to escape like I do. He would be in the middle of it all, speaking to hearts who would hear and saying the hard, yet loving thing that would either 1. offend or 2. speak to the depths of a persons soul that they would follow him for the rest of their days.
Jesus knows just what to say to the refugees as well as to the people who want to “protect” their own country too. He says the truth. He knows what to say to Trump and to Hillary. He knows, but not many want to listen right now because everyone is to busy screaming. It is hard to hear when we are screaming.
As a follower of Jesus I am asking him to help me listen to his voice and do whatever he says. I am asking him to once again “seize me with the power of a great affection” so He will be the first person in my life. I think Julian understood this. She walked in the shadow of death and she came out saying, “All is well.”
Circumstantially around us, our world is not well. But inwardly can things still be well even when outwardly they are so broken? For Christ-followers that is a promise. To live is Christ and to die is gain. We hold to him as our hope. WE hold to him in relational mess and pain. We hold to him in our disappointment and broken dreams. We hold to him when we are sick and wondering what our future holds. The reality in all this though is that He held us first and he still holds us this very moment. Today, if we know Jesus, we can say that no matter what happens to us that “all is well and all will be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”