Julian of Norwich and Knowing God
March 26, 2020 @ 6:19 PM by: Jennifer Frank
Julian of Norwich and Knowing God
by Pastor Abby
And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. John 17:3
Over the last 3 weeks, the world has changed in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We have all been asked to stay home and determine what is ‘essential’ and what we can do without. Assuming you have a home to stay in, it’s probably been a fairly good experience for you; more time with family, more rest, more track pants. I’ve had a lot more time to read. I found a book on my shelf (yes, I have too many books) that describes the lives of several Christian mystics. They all led fascinating lives, but the story of Julian of Norwich really stood out to me. She spent most of her time in a cell attached to a church. She had several revelatory visions in which God spoke to her about his love for humanity. These visions inspired her writing and her theology in which she talks about acting from a hermeneutic of love. For her, sins became wounds that need healing rather than acts to be condemned. She realized that it is easy for Christians to believe in God’s power but hard to believe in His love. As such, judgment and condemnation often take centre stage over love and grace. But when we understand that God loves us, we see ourselves and others and beloved children of God. Children who can experience God’s hope and redemption no matter what circumstances they find themselves in. In her time of detachment from the world, Julian got to know God. Everything that she had heard about Him from people or institutions was replaced with true knowledge that can only come from an encounter with God Himself.
It might be hard to see how Julian of Norwich’s words apply to our situation today. How do God’s hope and redemption speak into COVID-19? Julian lived in the fourteenth century. The Bubonic plague was claiming lives all around her. At the age of 30, she became fatally ill and was preparing to die. It was at that time that she had visions from God, after which she miraculously recovered. She devoted herself to a life of simplicity so she could hear from God and better understand His will for humanity.
This may be an extreme example, but we have all been given a chance to cut out distractions so that we can better hear from God. It’s a chance for us to live simply so that we can get to know God. What are some ways we can do that?
- Read your Bible! Before you check the news, or your phone and do anything, start your day in God’s word.
- Set aside a good chunk of time during the day to pray (speak and listen!).
- Connect with others to hear how God has been speaking to them.
- Listen to worship music. This is a time to be reminded of who God is and what his promises are.
As you read and pray and connect, ask God to show you his will for others and for you. Let this be a time of getting reacquainted with God and learning how to listen to his voice.
This is a time for the Church to speak into the fears and doubts that are circulating around us. But we can’t do that unless we are grounded in the truth of the gospel. That truth is that God is for us; for you, for me, for the neighbour next door. This doesn’t mean that we can’t catch COVID-19. It does mean that God loves us and knows us and wants to be known by us. And this can only happen when we make the time to know Him.
So let’s take this time to reset and remind ourselves of what is essential. For Julian of Norwich, she came out on the other end committed to a life of prayer, reading, and writing. When our time of social distancing is over, will we return to the way things were, or will we come out more committed to new rhythms of knowing God?