Sin is No Thing? | Julian of Norwich
By Carolyn Berghuis, MS, ND, CTN
Let’s face it, try as we may, we are going to slip up from time to time – we are going to sin. Have you ever wondered why God allows sin and the pain that follows? I mean, after all, God is all powerful and he can create earth to be whatever he wants it to be! He could create a sinless earth where we live in total bliss. Ahhhh… However, alas, we live in a fallen world and sin is a part of daily life. So how can we overcome sin and experience the fullness of bliss God has for us in the earth we call home?
While studying the thought of Julian of Norwich I continue to sit in awe as I reflect on her work – Revelations of Divine Love. In this work Julian reveals sixteen visions (called Showings) she received directly from Jesus Christ when she was thirty years old. Even though Julian lived in the fourteenth century, in my opinion, her thought is uniquely suited for the modern person – especially her thought regarding sin. The modern world seems to be infested with sin and mankind is in need of healing from the effects of sin – Julian has an answer.
Missing the Mark
It seems we live in a milieu of contradictions. We sin, while simultaneously desiring greater peace, love, and joy. We “know” that sin will NOT lead us into the goodness our heart desires, yet, we continue to fall short and miss the mark. However, what would our lives look like if we had a different view of the power of sin? What if we believed that sin somehow had the power to bring us into greater bliss? What if sin is actually necessary for us to enter into this bliss? Before you think I am blaspheming please read on! Jesus revealed significant truths about sin to Julian during her Showings and I believe they can help heal our pain.
Throughout the Showings Jesus continually revealed God’s all loving, all forgiving nature to Julian. By God I am referring to the Holy Trinity. In a nut-shell, there is nothing we can do that has the power to stop God from loving, forgiving, and desiring our full healing. God continually reassures Julian that “all will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well”. Yet Julian remained deeply puzzled – how could everything be well when mankind continues to sin and suffer its effects? After all, we cause ourselves and others significant pain when we sin.
God – The Doer of All
In the second Showing Jesus revealed to Julian that God, the doer of all, brings everything to its perfect end. Looking around with her spiritual eye Julian saw that God is indeed the doer of everything – no matter how big or how small. Everything that is real, everything that has substance, is a creation of God. In this Showing Julian saw no sin in God, only the fullness of goodness. Being the doer of everything, God brings everything to its perfect end. No exceptions. How comforting to the individual facing troubles to know that all will be well. Yes, God does indeed have everything handled, including sin and Julian saw this.
Yet, Julian’s inquisitive mind eventually got the better of her. Since God is the doer of everything, and she saw no sin in God, then she wondered what could sin be??? She could only conclude that sin was “no thing”. Because if sin was actually “something” then it would have to be a part of God because God is the creator of everything. Of course, given God’s all loving nature, the concept that God created sin, or in anyway contributed to it, was an impossible concept for Julian to accept (me too). Nowhere in the Showings did Julian see a trace of sin in God. She was conflicted.
Wow, this can really stretch our spiritual muscles – it did Julian’s. She was persistent in questioning God about the topic! If sin is “no thing” then Julian needed a better understanding of it. A simple “Don’t worry about it Julian” will not do for this young woman. Personally, I would have been mesmerized at the loving sight of our Savior, unable to move beyond the vision – let alone question God about sin! But our girl Julian was a very strong woman! She persisted in her questioning about sin – she needed to understand. God, in his gracious love, revealed significant truths to Julian to settle her mind and heart.
To say that sin is “no thing” doesn’t mean that sin doesn’t cause heartache in our life. Quite the contrary, the effects of sin are witnessed in our pain and suffering. When we miss the mark we hurt ourselves and others – period. On top of that, our humanity limits our ability to understand the extent of the damage our sin causes. Like ripples in a pond flowing out from a cast away stone, the ripples of sin extend well beyond their initial splash (tidal wave?…). Generations of God’s children can experience pain as a result of our sin. Thankfully, God loves us so much that he only allows us to see the effects of our sin through his mercy. Sin is vile and ugly beyond our human comprehension. Missing the mark is a big deal.
After reflecting on Julian’s thought, I see sin akin to a what astrophysicists call a “black hole”. It doesn’t actually exist, yet, it is a powerful force. Light does not exist in a black hole, and likewise, light cannot exist in sin, both sin and a black hole are complete darkness. Sin is void of God, and since God is in everything and he created everything, Julian’s reason follows – sin is “no thing.”
However, don’t give up all hope just yet. Yes, sin causes pain, we all know that. And further, God shared with Julian that while she will indeed sin (all of mankind will), he’s got our back. He has a remedy for sin.
Sin Into Blessings?
It appears that sin is more complex than our human mind can understand. We think in terms of sin and punishment; however, God acts in terms of sin and healing. God actually uses the pain we experience as a result of sin (ours and/or others) as a gateway into healing. God shared with Julian that the pain we experience from sin will become transformed into greater blessings for those who love God. Yes, you read that correctly. When we suffer the pain of sin God wants to heal us and bring us into greater bliss!
Before you think this gives you (or anyone) a green light to sin in order to experience greater blessings, think again. God also revealed to Julian that the greatest pain a soul can experience is the pain resulting from sin. Julian described this pain as greater than all the pain of purgatory and hell combined. Yikes! Yet, we all do it… we all sin.
It’s a Tough World
God knows this world is tough, real tough. No one goes through life unscathed. Every man, woman, and child will suffer the pain resulting from sin. When we go against God’s Love, the end result will be pain. And this pain lifts us very high in God’s sight. Like a parent looking at their sick child, God looks at us with parental love and he wants to heal us. He knows we are sick with a disease called sin and he alone has the remedy.
Like a little child who needs the tender care of her parent when she is ill, we need the loving care of our divine parent when we are trapped in the illness of sin. We need divine comfort, nourishment, protection, and provision. We need our Triune God. For healing to begin the correct medicine must be administered. In the case of sin, the first medicine administered is contrition and sorrow for our missing the mark. Contrition will wash our wounds through God’s mercy.
Yet, we must first recognize our sin before we can be truly sorry for it. Contrition is not always easy because, let’s face it, sometimes it is hard to see our sin. Who wants to look at that anyway! Again, we need our loving parent to reveal this to us through divine mercy and grace. Our Triune God will walk us through contrition and our fever can then begin to break. Other medicines will eventually be administered – compassion and longing for God.
Sin Into Bliss
Sin separates us from the source of all comfort and life – it separates us from God. However, God will use sin for good if we allow him too. When we experience heartfelt sorrow for our sin (contrition) and a desire to do our best to avoid sin, the pain we experience at the hands of sin becomes an opportunity to more fully deepen our relationship with him God. We become closer to God when we allow him to guide us through our pain.
There is one and only one pathway through the pain of sin and into God’s bliss – it is through the Son. Jesus Christ, God became Man, is with us in our sin and our pain. He feels our pain, he knows our heart, he understands our illness, and he wants to carry us through it all. He wants to carry it for us. One of my favorite meditations during times of pain is to sit and meditate on the face of Christ – allowing myself to witness both his pain and his joy. I do this while holding a desire to become more like him in my heart and mind.
Healing Through Jesus Christ
Jesus, our brother and our friend, will illuminate our path into bliss when we spend time with him. He is with us on the cross in our pain. His pain is our pain. He suffers with and for us. Remember, Jesus suffered for us out of love so that we could experience all the joy God has for us. Sit and stay with him a while, allow God’s divine remedy to pour into your heart.
…For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2
Remember, we are all created in the image of the Holy Trinity. Being created as such means that evil and sin are unnatural to us. While we fall prey to the powers of evil and sin, they are not true to the nature God gave us. Our true nature, a nature rooted in God, is one of love and compassion for our fellow human beings. We just need to surrender and allow God to cultivate our true nature in the field of earth.
God bless all of you – Carolyn
God the Father – hold us in your Fatherly love.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – heal us with your divine love.
God the Holy Spirit – immerse us in divine love.