Spiritual Formation


“I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.” – Rabbi Hillel

In the 14th century there lived a saintly English woman named Julian of Norwich. Her spiritual insight is legendary in the history of the church. Julian was what is known as an anchoress, which means she lived in quarters that joined the church. She had a window to the church on one side and a window to the world on the other side. She literally lived in the space “between two worlds” or between heaven and earth. People would often come to her outside window for counsel and spiritual direction.

Julian reported a number of visions or dreams she received from God, which she referred to as “shewings.” In one of her visions, she witnessed the love of God in the story of a medieval landowner and his servant:

The landowner was sitting quietly, relaxed and peaceful. He called his faithful servant to him, who loved the landowner and was always eager to serve him. He sent the servant on an errand and he started off at once, running at full speed to fulfill his purpose and to please his master.

Without warning the servant fell headlong into a ditch and was badly injured. He was groaning and moaning and writhing with pain, totally unable to get up or help himself in any way. To add insult to injury, there was no one around to hear him or help him. He was quite ashamed and could not even turn his head to look toward his master for comfort or support. All he could do was lay there, wounded and desperate. He felt he had let his master down, he had failed at his assignment, and he would surely be punished severely.

But to the servant’s surprise his master saw that it was his passionate desire to serve and to please that had caused his fall, and that the servant was as loyal and goodhearted as before. Instead of punishing the faithful servant, his master picked him up and tended his wounds.

Julian meditated on this vision for many years before she shared her interpretation of its meaning. (From, "Revelations of Divine Love").

We are only a couple of weeks into Lent, and many of us have made promises to God about deepening our spiritual lives, making a personal sacrifice, or serving others for the 40 days. Many of us, like the servant in Julian’s vision, have already fallen into the ditch and gotten sidetracked. But our Master is always there to lift us up. The good news is, God loves us just as much, if not more, when we find ourselves in such places. The Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8).

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