Recently I read a line from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love that so warmed my heart with a longing to be close to Jesus in the sweet embrace of his Father that I prayed it over and over.
I’ve returned to it many times in the last two weeks… When I caught myself trying to do too much, too fast… When I felt guilty over a sin… When I was tempted to become jealous and judgmental of a colleague who judged me… To quiet myself and abide in prayer while waiting for an appointment… To shoot up a little prayer of love for friends while listening to them…
I’m eager to share this prayer with you, but first, a bit of background to set it up. This is a “double-size” devotional so I hope you can stay with me and that together we’ll find all we need in Jesus at the cross, right now!
Julian of Norwich’s Story
If you’ve read my recent devotionals then you know I’ve been reading Julian of Norwich’s 14th Century book during Lent this year. Parts of her book are hard to understand or don’t seem right. Could God have wanted her to pray to become so sick and in so much pain that she nearly died? Yet, this is what she prayed for and indeed when she was thirty years old this happened. While on her death bed for a number of days she meditated on the sufferings and death of Christ. She does this with such graphic detail about the bruising and bleeding of Christ on the cross that it makes the reader wince.
During this time she received many unusual “showings” (visions and understandings) from God. There’s nothing normal about this famous female saint! After all, she was not only a Benedictine nun, she was also an “anchorite” who lived enclosed in solitude for a life of prayer. Some might scoff, “What a waste of a Christian life to isolate yourself from a world of people in need of Christ!” And yet her life and story has touched millions of people with the grace of God through faith in Christ. The stream of people pressing in close to Jesus through her began in her lifetime and continues to you and me today.
Companioning Christ in His Sufferings
What I especially appreciate about Julian is that she shows us the companionship of Christ’s sufferings. Remember that the Apostle Paul who joyfully suffered much for Jesus wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11)
O Lord, help me to rejoice in you in this moment as I’m suffering from pain in my back and my bowels. And as I am being assaulted with memories of an esteemed colleague who judged me so harshly. Jesus, I rely on you and your cross.
Are you experiencing pain in your body? Conflict with a loved one? Has someone mistreated you? Of course, we pray for healing and we do all we can to resolve our problems, but as we wait can we rejoice in the blessing of being in God’s kingdom now? Could we think of the passion of Christ on our behalf, give thanks for him and his cross, then take hold of his hand to help us joyfully endure our own suffering out of love for him as he did for us? (Heb. 12:2)
An Excerpt from Revelations of Divine Love
When Julian of Norwich recovered from her illness she wrote down the things that God showed her as she meditated on the passion of Christ. She writes:
Here I saw a great union between Christ and us; for when he was in pain, we were in pain…
At this point, I wanted to look away from the cross, but I dared not, for I well knew that while I contemplated the cross I was safe and sound; therefore I was unwilling to imperil my soul, for beside the cross there was no safety, [only] the ugliness of fiends. Then a suggestion came from my reason, as though a friendly voice had spoken, ‘Look up to his Father in heaven.’ Then I saw clearly with the faith that I felt, that there was nothing between the cross and heaven which could have distressed me…
I answered and said [to Jesus], ‘No, I cannot [look up], for you are my heaven.’ …I would rather have suffered until Judgment Day than have come to heaven otherwise than by [Jesus Christ]; for I well knew that he who redeemed me so dearly would unbind me when he wished. (p. 17)
Did you catch that glorious line of prayer? You are my heaven! It reminds me of a verse from one of my favorite Psalms: O Lord, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25). Imagine that actually being true for you, that Jesus is your heaven — later in full glory and today in increasing glory!
If all our joy is in Jesus then all the joy of heaven is ours! What could make us happier than thinking about Jesus, conversing with him, serving him as we work and care for others, being with him as we do all that we do? There is no real happiness found outside the wings of our Lord.
Jesus is My Heaven… Nothing Else
Inspired by Julian (along with Psalm 73:25 and Phil. 3:10-11) I wrote a little prayer of the heart, a Breath Prayer to use my body to engage my mind and heart with Christ. It’s helped me to appreciate the embrace of my Lord and I hope it’ll be a blessing for you too!
- “Jesus is my heaven… Nothing else.”
I tell myself, Relax… Take a deep breath… Be in God’s presence in this moment…
Then as I breathe in I open my heart to receive from God and whisper, “Jesus is my heaven…”
I hold my breath and hold the wonderful sense of being loved by Jesus and God the Father…
As I exhale I renounce trusting in anyone or anything but Jesus (or loving people as unto Christ) for my personal sustenance and whisper, “Nothing else.”
As I said I like praying this for other people too! “Jesus is your heaven… Nothing else.”
More Breath Prayers
To pray a short verse or paraphrase of Scripture as a Breath Prayer is refreshing and empowering. It helps you learn to practice God’s presence all day and stay in tune with the peace of Christ. I’ve selected key verses of Scripture and developed step-by-step instructions for meditation, breathing rhythms, and prayer in “Breath Prayer Guides.”