When inspiration seems lacking, it's time to outsource. Robert Llewelyn's book "All Shall be Well", (mentioned here and here) has been a treasure chest of insight. In recent reading I've come across some golden nuggets well worth pondering. As Llewelyn interacts with Julian's writing, he spends several chapters responding to the quote above. Believing God's love desires us to become more and more the people we were created to be, Llewelyn explores that movement toward deeper freedom. At times our steps may seem counterintutive, or even morally wrong. He explains himself in this passage from Chapter 4:
"That we should always speak the truth, and that it is wrong to tell a lie, has probably been a part of Christian training from earliest years...but it needs to be taught with sympathetic understanding...for the fact is that our relationship to truth is expressed better in the words of Jesus "I have come to bear witness to the truth", than in the speaking of the truth as we commonly understand those words. Happily the two normally coincide, but when they are in conflict it is how we may best bear witness to the truth which we must try to decide. Thus if a father 'tells a lie' to conceal his child's whereabouts from a man brandishing a knife, it would not be correct to say that truth for the moment had been set aside, but rather that truth had been vindicated because the deeper truth in this situation is that life is sacred and is not to be placed at the disposal of evil men...Bonhoeffer argues in his Ethics that if a boy, who is asked by his teacher in front of the class if his father comes home drunk at night, replies 'untruthfully' that he does not, then truth has been vindicated because the boy has witnessed to the deeper truth, that a teacher has no right to ask such questions before the class."
The insight that "bearing witness to the truth" may be different than "telling the truth" helps put a new lens on "living truthfully". Llewelyn further goes on to say that in seeking the deeper truth, we may end up breaking a law that we thought was true, bringing a sense of guilt. Here, we trust in the grace of God, who realizes that we, to the best of our ability, are seeking to follow God in our actions. And even if we feel like we are not standing, as Julian says, yet we can be assured that in God's eyes we cannot fall.
(more after the break)
"The fact is that perfectionism is commendable when understood adverbially, dangerous when seen adjectivally. Interpereting that riddle, we might say that Jesus the carpenter never made perfect tables (perfect being an adjective), but that he always made tables perfectly. He may not have made perfect tables because the wood was inadequate, or the tools imperfectly suited, or the time insufficient, and so on. But he made tables perfectly in that the complete offering of his skills marked everything that he did. So our perfection is to be found in the fullness of the offering rather than in whether the flowers we plant grow, or the bread turns out well, or the singing is in tune...It is not a matter of being able to reach some objective standard of excellence, but rather of the desire to be open fully to the inflow of the Holy Spirit as God enables us."
More and more I've been realizing that we are always only doing the best that we can in that moment. The question is: Are we doing our best with the desire of pleasing God? If so, we can trust ourselves to the deeper insight of God, in whose eyes we cannot fall