This week, we’re exploring a paraphrase of Julian of Norwich’s Showings in All Will Be Well: 30 days with a great spiritual teacher. Julian was a fourteenth century Christian mystic who chose a solitary life in a small cell attached to a church building. People who chose this vocation were called anchorites because they were called to anchor the church and community in prayer. Others were allowed to come to the window in her little stone fortress to receive prayer and counsel. As far we know, Julian lived inside there until her death, through a time in European history that was racked by war and disease that affected her personally.
Besides being the first woman writer in English whose work survives, Julian’s contributions are theologically ground-breaking. Instead of a focus on sin and judgment like the church of her day, her experience of God is marked by love and joy. Sin is real for Julian, but it is not the preeminent reality. Jesus is the preeminent reality, with the mysterious but confident assurance that all will be well. Her experience of Jesus is matriarchal at times, not denying the traditional patriarchal understandings of God, but adding a nurturing and re-birthing dimension to them that helps us understand our resurrection life now, and our life with God as beloved children.
Today’s Bible reading
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:1-4
More thoughts for meditation
The mother may at times allow her children to fall
and to learn the hard way, for its own benefit, but since she loves it so
she would never allow any real danger to threaten her child.
And although earthly mothers have been known to let their children die,
our heavenly mother Jesus would never allow us, his children, to perish,
for he alone is all mighty, all wisdom, all love.
But often when we realize our faults we are so scared and filled with shame
that we don’t know what to do.
Then our patient Mother doesn’t want us to run away,
for nothing would please him less; but he then wishes us to behave just like a child.
When a child is terrified and frightened, it runs to its mother as fast as it can;
and if it can do nothing else, it yells out to her for help.
With a child’s humility let us call out: Dear Mother, be sorry for me.
I’ve gotten myself into a mess, and I need your assistance and wisdom.
Even if we don’t feel immediate relief, we can be sure he is behaving as a wise Mother.
For if he considers it beneficial that we mourn and weep, his compassion allows that
until the time is right, because he loves us.
He wishes us to imitate the child who naturally trusts in his mothers love whatever the situation.
Our Mother’s hands continually surround us to protect us.
Suggestions for action
Ponder for a moment how you think about God. When you make a mess, do you think God wants you to fix it up yourself? Some of us were so parentified and shamed that we were expected to get everything right from a very young age. Julian and the Bible writers describe a relationship of loving dependence that is different than that. In other parts of her Revelations of Divine Love, she even describes a young child soiling a diaper and running to the Mother, who naturally hugs, kisses, and cleans up the child without any shame or blame. Is there a mess in your life or your heart right now? Tell the Mother! You don’t need to be afraid of punishment. You can expect help! The Lord knows our weakness and is ready to assist. And it you can’t get down with the mother image, take it from John: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Pray: Loving God, help me relax into being your child. Help me trust in your mercy and compassion for me.