"Some of us believe that God is all powerful and may do everything; and that he is all wise and can do everything; but as for believing that he is all love and will do everything, there we hold back. In my view nothing hinders God's lovers more than the failure to understand this."  Julian of Norwich

If truth in kindness is the key that sets us free from our besetting sins, then living in falsehood constructs many a cell. As I'm still in the midst of Emma, I'll let two of her characters illustrate this point. Jane Fairfax, a beautiful and accomplished young woman, is the orphaned niece and darling of her aunt and grandmother. She joins the community at Highbury halfway through the novel, much to the dismay of Emma, who has never liked her overmuch. It isn't too long before we realize that Jane is withholding some information about her past, and it is impinging upon her health. As the story progresses it is revealed that Jane is not only hiding a secret, but actually living a falsehood. Given the circumstances she finds herself in, she is forced to act in ways contrary to her heart. It is no surprise that her mental and physical condition worsen.

For her part, Emma acts much more transparently. She does not willfully live out a lie, nor go against what she knows to be right. But as the plot develops, she is often caught in traps made by her blindness to the truth. She frequently constructs false realities: thinking a young man to be in love with her friend while he is actually in love with her, imagining her friend's social strata lifted to an unnatural level, presuming to know the basis of Jane's illness. She is even oblivious to her own feelings.  Each eye-opening revelation brings her in line with what is real; her painful insights free her to know and follow her own heart.

In the passage quoted at the top of this post, Julian bemoans the fact that many lovers of Christ live in falsehood. Whether they consciously refuse to live out of the truth that they are loved by God, or whether they are blind to the fact doesn't matter. The result is the same. Instead of becoming the vibrant and lively children God desires, they keep themselves in various states of ill health and disrepair. It's as if we're flowers with the ability to move in and out of the sunshine, or refuse the life-giving rain, even say no to the fertilizer that is meant to make us lush and fruitful.

But the gardener (who is also the sun and the rain and the fertilizer) never stops desiring us to flourish. Not disheartened by the state we are in, or by the lies that entangle us, He continues to be active in our lives. Because the truth is, He loves us. And those of us who are in the midst of Lent know that He will go to any length to make that known.