Like a discoverer who's been told of a stunning vista that lies ahead of her, I've finally arrived at the promised destination. "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well" was the first phrase that I connected wtih Julian of Norwich and one which prompted this sojourn into her writings. And so, when I came upon it in Chapter 27, I was eager to understand that context in which it appeared. What I found was a bit surprising, to say the least.
Julian begins this chapter by musing that the only thing standing between us and God is "sin." For God's love is constant, yet we cannot see Him in His beauty and glorious love because of sin. She then wonders, as many have before and since, why God has allowed sin to enter into the world at all, a question that is often referred to as "the problem of evil." "This stirring," she says, "was greatly to be shunned, and nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed for it without reason or discretion. But Jesus, that in this vision informed me of all that I needed, answered by this locution and said; "Sin is necessary, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."
I was struck by the fact that in all the times I have heard this phrase quoted, never once have I encountered the preamble to it - "sin is necessary." This is more than I bargained for, and will take some time to unpack. It seems there are deep theological implications if I take it in certain ways, and today is not the day to dig into those.
But, I have been living out a possible interpretation of these words, to see how it fits, trying it on for size. Here's how it goes: "Stuff happens. Mistakes get made. Even if we try our best, there's still junk. Sometimes it's atrocious, sometimes it's petty, sometimes it's intentional, sometimes it comes despite our best efforts to do well. No matter what or why, God stands behind this promise that all shall be well, no matter how big or small."
It's a reality check to my idealism - no matter what, people (myself included) are going to mess up. So I shouldn't be surprised if bad stuff goes down. But it's also an unbelievably amazing promise to hang onto. God promises to clean everything up. To restore what was lost and to reconcile what was torn apart.
There's more in this chapter to ponder, and big questions to wade into, but as I've been living my "normal life"-taking care of friends, planning a wedding, trying to write a blog, I'm taking comfort in this: stuff happens, but God's got it covered.