All Shall Be Well

“All Shall Be Well. All Shall Be Well. And all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian of Norwich

I remember hearing this phrase for the first time as I studied Julian of Norwich in seminary. I was impressed with her contribution to the church and our greater understanding of God, but I need to be honest.

While I found this rather bold statement of hers comforting, it also didn’t sit well with me. It felt on one hand like a platitude. A little too Pollyanna.

On the other hand, the story of how she receives these words is a little “out there”. It's mysticism and part of a vision. Insert eye roll and a touch of sarcasm here. Maybe add a side of pragmatism for good measure.

Fast forward to about 10 years later during a Bible Study where these words bubbled up in my mind, and before I knew it, out of my mouth. As I blurted them out, I remember thinking, “Do I really believe this?” Or am I simply answering the impossible situation this fellow believer has put before the group with the first somewhat comforting thing that comes to mind?

The answer is yes to both.

Ministry is wrought with seeking to console, offering wisdom and wanting to fix things. It’s filled with the desire, or maybe more accurate, the temptation, to take away the pain of others and have the answers that our people need.

You could replace the word ministry with motherhood, and the preceding statement would still stand as truth.

Ministry and motherhood look a lot alike.

Here’s the rub.

Julian’s words don’t allow for all that fretting that moms and ministers tend to do. They don’t fix all the things, but rather challenge us to a deep faith in the goodness of God to make all things well.

Fast forward to a year after this conversation in Bible Study, and I’m praying these words over my son who has been diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. This disease is so rare that his doctor pulls out his medical book to show us the picture (this was pre-Google) and asks if he can call his colleague into the room to see it. To say the least, it was scary. 

And when I didn’t have the words to pray, I returned back to Julian.

All shall be well. All shall be well.

A parishioner is going through a horrific divorce and her world is collapsing all around her. 

I return back to Julian.

All shall be well. All shall be well.

I am undergoing sinus surgery and have to wait for three hours by myself before they take me in. I’m anxious. 

Julian reminds me…

All shall be well. All shall be well.

Another church member is having similar anxiety before surgery. I remember that Julian’s words brought me peace. I give them to her. My colleague knows them through song and records it for her.

All shall be well. All shall be well.

My youngest son started off with us in foster care. We hoped to adopt him. The future was uncertain. 

Nevertheless, Julian’s words wash over my me.

All shall be well. All shall be well.

A pandemic. Schools deciding what to do for learning. Teachers, students and parents brimming with the uncertainty of what the year holds. Community leaders and churches trying to help in whatever way they can. It’s palpable. I’m trying to think of how best to pray for them. 

I’m once again reminded of the words…

All shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well.

These words have weaved their way into my soul so that my life, my ministry and my mothering are all set to their chorus.

Their tenderness and care seem to bring about a semblance of peace when life is hard and confusing.

The stillness and surrender they beckon is unmatched.

They feel like the verbal expression of rocking a baby in your arms.

Or better yet – of us feeling like the baby that is being rocked.

They are the soundtrack of a mothering God.

Interestingly, Julian of Norwich is known for her teachings on the motherhood of Christ.

She writes about how Jesus cares for us daily like a mother.

“In our spiritual birthing, he shows tenderness and care beyond any other mother in so much as our soul is of more value in his eyes. He kindles our understanding, he directs our ways, he eases our consciences, he comforts our soul, he lightens our heart and gives us, in part, knowledge and love of his blessed Godhead.”

That description sounds like an elaboration of her words that continue to mother me in my faith and, in turn, spill over to those I am privileged to mother and serve.

Ministry and motherhood look a lot alike.

I’m grateful for words that speak peace, direct my thoughts and increase my understanding of the blessed Godhead to help guide me in these two sacred callings.

As I write this, I hear the sound of my youngest child playing in the bathtub.

I think about how I have an early morning meeting with his teacher tomorrow that will be followed by a group meeting to work out the best way to engage in conversations around racial injustice with our church and community.

There’s a school board meeting after that to discuss going back to school. I’m interested as a parent and community member who seeks to help.  

Another child is on the phone with her friend talking about things that newly crowned middle school girls discuss.

Our oldest is house-sitting and will be driving home in the dark. He’s only had his license for a month.

There are worship services to record. Decisions to be made about returning to in-person gatherings.

Parts of the country are literally on fire. Other parts are being hammered by a Category 2 hurricane.

It all feels like a lot. As a mother. As a clergy person. As a human.

I return to Julian’s words and let them wash over me.

All shall be well. All shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well.

**This post is part of the book launch blog tour for Embodied: Clergy Women and the Solidarity of a Mothering God. Embodied includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter, to instigate conversations that lead to support and new perspectives. The book is available this September from Bookshop.orgAmazon, or Cokesbury


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