“[Christ] brought to mind the attribute of a glad giver; a glad giver always takes but little heed of the thing that he gives, but all his desire and all his intent is to please and solace him to whom he gives it; and if the receiver takes the gift highly and thankfully, then the courteous giver sets at nought all his cost and all his travail for joy and delight that he has because he has pleased and solaced him that he loves.”  (Chapter 23)

It's Easter Monday, maybe not a true holiday (although the college around the corner is closed) but a good day to reflect on where this Lenten journey has taken me. Blogging through the "Revelation" of Julian of Norwich has brought new insight and although I haven't made it through all of her writings, what I have pondered has settled deep into my heart.

In posting this final passage, I find myself wondering how well I am receiving the gift of Easter. Whether I allow it the power to change my life or, once the holiday is passed, if I'll sink back into old patterns of thinking and acting. In one of Julian of Norwich's visions, (posted here) Jesus asks her whether she is well-pleased with his sacrifice. His pleasure comes not only because it shows the depth of his love, but also because it is the way for us to experience fullness of life, to "one" with him.

How does this happen? What actually transpired on the cross on Good Friday is the subject of much theology, but at the very least I think there is an exchange. For our broken and estranged lives, we are granted the life of God. The salvation Jesus brings is about healing and reconnection; it includes forgiveness and restoration. The Spirit (which is poured out on Pentecost) grants us full access to divine love and power, including a companion and guide to life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Great gifts, all. And yet I wonder how many Christians find themselves continuing to struggle with guilt, a sense of distance from God and/or lack of clear vocation. The fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control - are nice ideas, but not abundant realities.

Perhaps it seems too good to be true. Maybe we're so used to being concerned and worried, or powerless and distracted, that the idea of living robust and confident lives just doesn't feel right. Or perhaps we've bought the idea that "being Christian" or "spiritual" is about a live that feels "sacrificial," one where we sigh and say, "well, that's just what I need to do. It's not about being fulfilled, it's about being obedient."
(more after the break)

Not accepting God's gracious gift of life doesn't only harm us, but it grieves God. This passage from Jane Austen's "Emma" may help to illustrate my point. Harriet has been unwisely encouraged by Emma to set her hopes on Mr. Elton, the local vicar. When he marries another,  Harriet is inconsolable, returning again and again to fret over the turn of events. As Emma takes upon herself the major part of the blame in this situation, she tries to be understanding and patient with Harriet. But she also knows it does her friend no good to stay in this frame of mind. Finally, she says to her:

"Your allowing yourself to be so occupied and so unhappy about Mr. Elton's marrying, Harriet, is the strongest reproach you can make me. You could not give me a greater reproof for the mistake I fell into. It was all my doing, I know. I have not forgotten it, I assure you. Deceived myself, I did very miserably deceive you and it will be a painful reflection to me forever. Do not imagine me in danger of forgetting it...

"I have not said, exert yourself Harriet for my sake; because for your own sake, rather, I would wish it to be done, for the sake of what is more important than my comfort, a habit of self-command in you, a consideration of what is your duty, an attention to your propriety, an endeavour to avoid the suspicions of others, to save your health and credit, to restore your tranquility. These are the motives that I have been pressing on you. They are very important, and sorry I am that you cannot feel them sufficiently to act upon them. My being saved from pain is a very secondary consideration. I want you to save yourself from greater pain. Perhaps I have sometimes felt that Harriet would not forget what was due--or rather what would be kind to me."

Emma's trump card, and the one that makes it possible for Harriet to choose to let her disappointment go, is to consider what would bring Emma pleasure. 

God yearns to be a "glad giver." He longs for us to accept and live into the life made possible at Easter. He desires that we desire health and wholeness for ourselves, that we grab at the opportunity to be made new. But if we need a stronger motivation, maybe it will come if we feel how it pains God when we accept less. Should lack of love for ourselves makes us hesitate to embrace the abundance set before us, perhaps our love for God (and our desire for His joy) will be the catalyst we need.
Patrick Meade
4/28/2011 11:50:45 am

Hi Sue,
I'm a student of St. Mary's College of Maryland in Professor Robin Bates' Literature in History class. For our final project we were asked to read a work on our own and I chose to read Julian of Norwich. I'm very interested in your lenten project--your posts are all incredibly insightful. I look forward to perusing the rest of your website.
-Patrick Meade


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