Betty Skinner, our inspiration for The Hidden Life Awakened, shares her friendship with Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic, who reached through the pages of her book, Revelations of Divine Love, to help guide her through the darkness.
Julian was very, very influential—very, very influential influential—in the movement I made from, you might say, more of the evangelical approach to my spirituality into the contemplative dimension. All of our growth experiences these movements. The problem is that we that tend to cling to what we know and don’t trust the unknown. So, I’m in that bind myself, having a sense that where I am is not where God intends me to finish, if you will. I was driving to South Carolina with my sister and went to a monastery and picked this book up—it just appealed to me. It’s called Revelations of Divine Love and it’s written by this thirteenth century mystic woman who had what she called thirteen showings, she calls them, but they really were divine revelations as she perceived God speaking to her and primarily talking to her about the love. So I took this little book, I didn’t think I could read it, so it laid around the mountain house a long time, but then I finally discerned that I should take it and I should read it—and not about it, but the book itself. At this point on my journey, I am very much listening now, very trying to discern the leading of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit was saying, “Take that book and go to this particular place.” I had walked all around these mountains, so I knew many, many places, but trying to be obedient, I took the book and I went to this place. I pulled it out of my rucksack and sat there. I picked a rather isolated spot off the beaten track or trail if you will, just so I could read out loud. I wanted to read it out loud, so I could hear it better. I didn’t anybody to interrupt me. I didn’t want people hearing me. Here again the mystics are very private people so this was a very isolated spot, and we later came to call it Julian’s Rock. Julian taught me many things but two things that year after year as I would read her work out loud was the possibility of the intimacy with the Beloved. Everything had to do about this love relationship and that everything that I touched or did or said or aspired to would come from that deep inner connection with this love. She talked about that a lot and wrote about it a lot, very vivid descriptions of the passion, very vivid descriptions of her visits with Mary, the mother of Jesus, very vivid descriptions of her own fallings and failures. I remember sitting up there reading about how she talked about falling and failing. She was so humorous and so real. I would chuckle out loud. I would just laugh and “Ha-ha, Julian, you’re just waking me up!” you know. We’d just get to talking together. But that particular day, she was talking about and she says, “It’s alright Betty”, and she’s talking to me now you know, “It’s okay Betty, if you fall or you fail, but the important thing is to get up and learn from your failures.” So she taught me that. We learn from falling and failing and failure is okay. It doesn’t matter to God. We are just frail individuals and we are going to fail. God doesn’t look on that sort of thing. He looks on the desire of our hearts. Julian was teaching me a lot about intensifying my desire to be filled with this love. So, I think that was the ultimate and main thing that Julian taught me, about the intimacy . . . the possibility of the relationship if I would keep returning. Returning, returning and longing and desiring it; this intimate, deep love relationship with God. I’d like to quote just a little piece that I’d read along in her book. I’m very dyslexic; I have a hard time with left to right, so reading is slow for me. Even in trying to quote from her, I find myself trying to get straight. But one that I liked and pressed in was this3this was a prayer in a sense; all of her works were prayers to me. “Keep me ever centered in Your abiding, delighting in Your goodness, and rejoicing in Your loving.” You see how centered she was and what she was focused on. Hence, she came up and everybody knows about her words, “And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” “Keep me ever rejoicing in Your loving and ever delighting in Your goodness”—and “All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”