All Shall Be Well

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Julian of Norwich


Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.
(Hebrews 10:19-24)

Julian of Norwich, whose feast day we celebrate today, spent her life tuned to God’s frequency. She looked at the world beyond her cell and found God there. She looked within and found God there, too. You can find her most famous words written on bracelets and cross-stitched onto pillows and, most importantly, whispered in dark moments by desperate people: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

These words have managed to find the sweet spot of fame, much like Julian herself. She was famous enough for people to come seek her wisdom, but not quite famous enough for the religious establishment to feel the need to address her slightly unorthodox (we might call it “modern”) theology. Likewise, her famous words haven’t quite reached clichéd status, and so they are not easy to dismiss. Rather, every time I hear them, it’s like I’m remembering something I forgot.

We could ascribe a Trinitarian notion to the thrice-repeated mantra, and while that might be all well and good, I can’t help but think that’s not the point. There is truth in these words – truth that comes from far beyond us – and the more we say them, the more they’ll stick. After I meet someone new, I try to repeat his or her name at least three times to myself. When I do, I have a much better chance of remembering it. The same goes here.

When we repeat Julian’s words, we accomplish the advice of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews quoted above. We “hold fast” to hope, for we are telling ourselves that all “shall” (that is, “will”) be well, not that all “is” well now. Hope, after all, is faith projected into the future. Hebrews knows this, and so the writer reminds us that God always keeps God’s promises. The biggest promise of all – the promise to be with us always – is eternally fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will always abide in God’s presence; and thus, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
-Adam Thomas

What words do you find that you often repeat to yourself? Are they words that affirm life – words of blessing and faith? Or are they words that negate it – curses or words spoken in anger? How would your life change if you started replacing them with Julian’s mantra?

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