Saturday, December 29, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, December 15, 2018 - All Shall Be Well

    In my church every Sunday morning, after some have come forward to share their hearts and light a candle, the congregation sings a brief line written by Julian of Norwich in the 14th century. All Shall Be Well... It is a quote from the first published book ever written by a woman.
    Julian of Norwich had a severe illness when she was 30 in the year 1373. On her deathbed she had a series of 16 visions of Jesus and Mary after which she completely recovered. She eventually wrote down these visions in a book called Revelations of Divine Love. In one vision in particular she asked Jesus about the reason for sin. He answered her that, “Sin is behovely, but all shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.”
     The word “behovely” is the remarkable part. For the word had a relatively conceptual meaning in Julian's time over six centuries ago which no single word today manages to convey. To say that sin is behovely was to say that sin is useful, expedient, necessary, valuable, understandable, logical, practical, and no surprise whatsoever to God.
     In Julian’s vision, Jesus was accepting of sin in the world because he acknowledged that it was just part of the learning curve. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy to watch. But that it is something we must move through in order to live up to our fullest potential. Peace on Earth, perhaps?
     Julian’s optimism about the human race was evident in her understanding that humanity matures over time and comes closer to making fuller use of our divine spark with each mistake we make. But it takes time. Ages, in fact.
    In our present moment we struggle with our relationships. Differing opinions among our friends or family members, our coworkers. We feel less free to speak our minds. It’s understandable and no surprise whatsoever to God. It’s part of the process.
     Love is what got us into this trouble in the first place. Love is what makes people talk to each other. It’s what makes us want to know one another. Every form of communication has value. But there are pitfalls. Be careful what you wish for. As our technology to communicate becomes more widespread we discover things we sometimes wish we hadn’t. Wounds unhealed. Crimes unseen.
     Sometimes we wish we could go back to the old days before we knew anything. Ignorance was blissful for so many people. But not all. And now we know it. We can’t unknow the struggles of other people we now see all too clearly. But we try. Sometimes we dust off old ideas and methods which used to work just fine when certain people started forgetting their place. But those don’t work anymore. We see through it now. And we don’t like it one bit. None of us. Some don’t like what they now see, some don’t like that they are now being seen. Everyone feels like the sky is falling. Mainly because it is.
    But all shall be well.
    I have an affinity for this kind of thinking. Because if sin (which I define as any action which prevents or destroys relationship) is behovely, and somehow all part of the long arc of our development as humans, then perhaps there really is a point to all this. This exhausting journey of societal self-discovery has a purpose which is not unknown to God.
But can we take comfort from something about which we technically know nothing, have no proof of, nor be persuaded by others? Maybe. What does your gut tell you? Do you feel comfortable thinking of struggle as having a purpose? Can we get our heads around that?
Because if we can, we can use it deliberately. We can take the time to remember that all people have inherent worth and dignity. We can, with deliberation, recognize the deeper truths underneath the reasons why people do the hostile things they do. They are afraid. Accept them for who they are—even if needs to be from a safe distance—and assume there is more to the story than you know. People are never angry without something making them feel that way. Compassion and technology give us a reason as well as a way to first find out what it is and then make a bridge toward it.
As we reflect on our world, look for those who are accepting of others, accepting of difference, comfortable with change. These are the wise ones. Listen to them.

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