Juliana of Norwich was a 14th century anchorite and spiritual writer and the first female author published in English. She was not formally a nun, but lived most of her life in a small room, receiving daily food through a window and dedicating herself to prayer. Her best-known book is Revelations of Divine Love. Her infatuation with God and desire for others to know divine love and grace influenced thousands in her day and millions of readers over the past centuries. She shared her hope and love in a world full of plagues and wars (that make COVID-19 seem tame), ecclesial disputes, and social unrest. Why was she so happy?
Juliana experienced deep intimacy with Christ, both as the Crucified Savior and Risen Lord. She knew the entire biblical narrative and the final chapters of the Book of Revelation spoke to her as she reminded her suffering friends, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” The hope of the resurrection and the beautiful visions of eternity detailed in Scripture informed her optimism in the midst of so much degradation and tragedy.
We need Mother Juliana’s hope in our world. Easter reminds us that death does not have the final word and our current afflictions are working new affections of compassion and endurance in our souls. Injustice and underserved pain, the selfishness of the powerful, and our own self-inflicted wounds all conspire toward fatalism and hopelessness. But Easter has come and our mourning turns to joy as our tears are dried by the nail-scarred hands of Christ!
It was the Holy Spirit that gave Juliana of Norwich her revelations of divine love and hope. The same Holy Spirit lives in every believer and in the church opening our hearts and minds toward courage and wisdom, and loving service. The same Holy Spirit will empower the sharing of the Gospel as we invite others to experience forgiveness, healing, and foretastes of eternal delight.
While we contend for truth, work for justice, and engage in all domains of our culture, we will have defeats and victories, tragic reversals and miraculous advances. In the midst of it all, our Risen Lord reminds us, “All shall be well.”
We need a rediscovery of thoughtfulness in a world afflicted by a “dearth of depth and surfeit of superficiality.” (John Blanchard). The immediacy of experiences and information inflate human arrogance and make everyone a pseudo-expert. We have three tyrannies working: 1) experts competing for power; 2) the ubiquity of information that people confuse with true wisdom; and 3) a public square paralyzed by polarization that devolves into personal alienation instead of civil debate and learning.
We live in a world of instant information. This can be deceptive, because access to data and opinions is not the same thing as accurate information or insight. The other phenomenon is that a rumor or storyline is repeated so often that it becomes “fact” in the minds of many. And when it is later found to be partially or wholly untrue, a belated retraction cannot undo the damage to public knowledge. Information flows, but insight leading to integration of thought and practice is harder to find.
It is time for biblical thoughtfulness, for a fresh understanding of what the Apostle Paul refers to as the transformed mind of the follower of Christ. Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 4:22-24, building on the foundations of OT wisdom literature and the instructions of Jesus, offer hope for inner transformation leading to practical actions that honor God and serve our neighbors. The key word in both passages is transformation. The word is metamorphosis in the Greek and its underlying meaning denotes total change, reorientation, and a new mind.
Instead of unreflected and unfiltered reactions to life, here is a summary of a pathway to thoughtfulness:
- We receive events, inputs, inner intuitions and thoughts that create and refine the “lenses” through which we understand our world. We all have conscious and unconscious influences that affect our thinking. The thoughtful person recognizes these and takes time to absorb (not repress or suppress) the experiences.
- Instead of reacting immediately, we reflect on our feelings and thoughts and pause before saying or writing things we might regret.
- This reflection is then united with research, with the goal of understanding the different perspectives on the issues at hand.
- Receiving, reflecting, and research are all done subject to God’s revelation found in his two books. The first is Holy Scripture. Our question must always be, “How does God’s Word speak to this experience or issue directly or indirectly? The second book is God’s common grace or natural revelation. This consists of the best empirical and rational thinking in various fields.
- Finally, the thoughtful woman or man responds to the situation with as much grace and truth as possible.
May we be people of reflection and research, submitting to revelation and responding with love and wisdom in a world awash with emotionalism and irrationalism.