Sin is behovely, but…

As a freshman at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, I sat in a classroom that usually pulsated with nervous excitement and energy due to weekly quizzes and a desire to impress fellow classmates with profound comments and questions. However, on this particular day, the class sat hushed under a dark cloud of somber uncertainty. The profound fear and terror within each student made quizzes and grades and even college seem trivial. We all sat silent, wondering if anyone would even attempt to articulate our existential insecurity. Studying British Literature, we appreciated the power of language yet also knew its limitations and that it would only capture the foam on the surface of our fear. Even so, our professor invited us to share our thoughts. After more silence, one young woman finally broke the hush, saying that she found comfort in our class’s reading assignment. The reading that was due on September 11th, 2001 included excerpts from “the first known woman of letters in English literature” who proved to be “an accomplished prose stylist.” The student read the following portion to the class: “Sin is behovely, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” And a blanket of hope fell warmly upon the class.
These words of Julian of Norwich still offer hope in the midst of uncertainty today, ten years later.

And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, and I perceived that it was as round as any ball. I looked at it and thought: What can this be? And I was given this general answer: It is everything which is made. I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that it was so little that it could fall into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God.

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that he loves it, the third is that God preserves it.

— Julian of Norwich

One thought on “Sin is behovely, but…

  1. Behovely is a medieval word that means necessary, and sin is behovely means that our sinning must happen. Julian of Norwich speaks of the endless love of God who knows this of us and has no wrath. It is a hard concept for some Christians and theologians to wrap their minds around. They would have free will (and accountability for bad choices) to prevail and God to be the divine scale keeper. Here is a woman who understands the grace and mercy of God. She understands human nature. Her “showings” reveal the wonderfulness of Jesus and in no way encourage “licit” sin. If her Revelations of Divine Love are not the true relation of man to God and God to man, it’s close enough for me. Thank you.

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