Alex Venezia. Haunting.
In every generation, great preachers, writers, and theologians have taught us about the eternal things of God as they have understood them. In every generation, too, there have been a few very ordinary people who have been awakened and transformed to an extraordinary degree by a direct and profoundly personal encounter with the Beloved. Theirs is a special love affair with the Divine, the goal and heart of all religion. They have been gifted with a heightened experience of the glorious perfection of the heavenly realm and offer their gift to us as a visible display of the infinite riches of grace and kindness showered on us in Jesus Christ.1. We call them the mystics.
Silence and solitude have most often been the fertile ground of a mystic’s life in God, so we rarely meet them. More like poets and artists, theirs is a knowledge of God in fullness rather than in a more conventionally linear intellectual understanding. However, they also have a broad base of rational knowledge from deep immersion in sacred scripture and the writings of the saints. Motivated by the fire of Love, they emerge from their solitude to share life’s most hallowed gift with us—the possibility of a passionate and profound relationship with God, who is Love. Always their messages are variations of His all-encompassing love and dramatic desire for us, often written with encouragement and hope from their own stories of enormous personal struggles fought and won. Their courage, constancy, and creativity remind us of the Holy Image in which we are all framed, and in Whose great Love we are all loved as one.2
Betty Walthour Skinner, our dear friend whose story we have chronicled in The Hidden Life Awakened, was a 21st Christian century mystic. She moved easily in the heavenly realms, and, as mystics who have had this intimate experience do, she spent her life sharing the great Love she found there. Saint Julian of Norwich, her dear friend, and 14th-century mystic who lived during the Black Plague in Europe, taught her about God’s love through her great spiritual classic, Revelations of Divine Love. It is the earliest surviving book in the English language written by a woman. Every summer, Betty would take her little weather-beaten and well-loved book up her favorite mountain in North Carolina to learn from her friend in the place that became so sacred to her she named it Julian’s Rock.
Summer after summer, day after day, I returned to Julian’s Rock and read everything I could about her. I was deeply impressed by her simplicity and her tender and intimate relationship with the Beloved. With sweet humility, she would always preface the things she wrote about God with ‘As I understand it,’ and she would refer to Him as ‘our courteous Lord.’ While pondering a tiny hazelnut in her hand, Julian experienced a profound yet simple awareness: God created this, God loved this, and God will care for it. With a knowing beyond knowing, she grasped that He would do no less for her: He created her, He loved her, and He would care for her. From Julian, I learned that every circumstance in my life would work together for good whether it felt good or not. God said to her, ‘I may make all things well, I can make all things well, I will make all things well, and I shall make all things well. And you yourself shall see that all manner of things shall be well.’
Julian’s descriptions of Christ as He was dying on the cross were intensely vivid. In one of the showings, she heard Jesus tenderly saying to her, ‘Julian, have I died enough for you? If I could suffer more for you, I would.’ Her revelations taught me to see that everything is the voice of Love, even unspeakable pain. Pain got my attention, brought me to the end of myself, and led me home to God. Without the pain, I would never have been pressed to engage in this spiritual journey that finally led to such joy and gratitude. Our Father tenderly loves me. He is in control of my reality, so my reality, however it may look to me, is always good. Whatever is, is good. There is a huge freedom in understanding that. As Julian so sweetly summed it up, ‘Then we can do no more than look at Him rejoicing, with a noble, powerful desire to be entirely made one with Him—to be centered in His dwelling, rejoicing in His loving and delighting in His goodness.’ Julian taught me that. She was very real to me. She was my mentor. She still is.The Hidden Life Awakened pp 193-194
Imagine the joyous reunion of these deeply blessed women—face to face at last.
You might like to hear Betty talk about her friend in this video.