Julian of Norwich: a hero to my soul

Julian of Norwich was an amazing woman who lived in the middle of some difficult circumstances to say the least, including the Black Death and Hundred Years War. She lived in a small annex attached to the church in Norwich, England and spent her days in prayer and giving spiritual counsel to those in the community. She wrote about her passion and longing for God. In his book, Water from a Deep Well, Professor Gerald Sittser recounts a central prayer of Julian’s:

“Julian asked God for three gifts – an understanding of the Passion of Chirst, a severe physical illness and ‘three wounds’ (true contrition, loving compassion, and longing for God). She believed that the experience of suffering would allow her to identify with the Passion of Christ and comprehend something of the magnitude of God’s love for her and the world.”

As I read her prayer, I am struck deeply by her longing to know (experience) God’s love. Certainly, she knew the theological underpinings of God’s grace but knowing intellectually didn’t satisfy her soul. She wanted to feel it down deep in her bones. I am challenged to the core by Julian’s passion and it leads me to several questions.

How much do I want to know God’s love? Enough to ask for a physical illness? Enough to not run from hardship becauase of what God might be doing in me through it? Enough to stop running after pleasure (seeking a new future, reclaiming something from the past, or simply deadening my experience of the present through activity)?

I do know that something of Julian’s passion resonates with me. I do know that when I am honest, I want God that much but then again I don’t. There is a part of me that says, “play it safe” and “you don’t really want God more than comfort and pleasure and good reputation.” As I survey the terrain of my soul, I realize that I am at the edge of a cliff and to jump will be the greatest thrill of my life (trusting that God will catch me and show me His glory in deepening ways) while to stay means that I will know of God but miss the depths. I realize that I’ll never talk myself into it (same as a real cliff). I just have to jump.

So, as I move into a new year, “I’m jumping Father. I want you more than physical health or any other material blessing. I want to know you – whatever it takes.”

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~ by Ted Wueste on December 30, 2011.

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