The Godly Will
The “godly will” was one of the many insights that Julian of Norwich received during her decades of contemplation on the Fourteenth Revelation. She perceived that there is “a godly will that never assented to sin, nor never shall.” What is this godly will? Julian understood that the godly will is our divinely created nature, fashioned out of nothing in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). It is our existential link to our Creator, which may never be broken. It is the indwelling of God’s will in our soul, and it is our soul’s will and desire to be united with God. No one and nothing can satisfy that desire but God.
Theologically speaking, the godly will is the “higher part,” or pure substance of the soul, which “wills good and works good in the sight of God.” It includes our mental capacities to be aware, to reason, to remember, and to choose the good. Unlike the “lower part” of the soul that conditions our natural appetites for food, procreation, and self-preservation, the “higher part” of the soul wills our spiritual perfection. In truth, “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10). For Julian, we are not only created good; we are created "godly."
Of course, we may misuse and abuse our godly will. Because of sin, the rational and sensual faculties of our soul have become weakened, ignorant, easily misguided. Thus we may turn away from the eternal good for which we are created, give in to the carnal drives of our lower nature, and choose lesser goods that involve sinful behavior. Then we may fall into a ditch of darkness and despair through our “feebleness and blindness.” But Julian insists that the soul that shall be saved never fully assents to serious sin; therefore, sin does not nullify the godly will, for it is ever kept safe and secure in the ground of our Christ-redeemed humanity.
Wherefore, he wills we know that the noblest thing that ever he made is mankind, and the fullest substance and the highest virtue is the blessed soul of Christ. And furthermore, he wills that we know that this dearworthy soul was preciously knit to him in the making. Which knot is so subtle and so mighty that it is oned into God, in which oneing it is made endlessly holy. Furthermore, he wills we know that all the souls that shall be saved in heaven without end are knit in this knot, and oned in this oneing, and made holy in this holiness."
Think of it! Even when we sin, God sustains our soul’s awareness (without which we would not be able to experience anything), as well as our rational ability to know and to choose the good. Even when we go astray, God continues to love us unconditionally and sends his Son to bring us back home. Moreover, because of our glorious redemption, when God “looks” at us, God sees the Beloved, with whom he is “well pleased” (Mt 3:17; Lk 3:22). This is what it means for our essential nature to be kept “whole and safe”: we are inseparably knitted and oned to Christ.
So let us not grow weary in following our higher nature in being good and in doing good, especially when the world around us seems to be on a dark trajectory. Divine Love upholds the truth and goodness of our godly will and Christ himself is overcoming the world!
PLEASE NOTE: The excerpts above are from "An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich" (InterVarsity Academic Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.