And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. John 12:32
In her poem, On a Theme from Julian’s Chapter XX, Denise Levertov initially argues that the suffering on the cross does not seem worse than the suffering that people in the world experience every day. “Why single out this agony? What’s a mere six hours?” She then ponders the insights of Julian of Norwich who saw that –
One only is ‘King of Grief’.
The oneing, she saw, the oneing
with the Godhead opened Him utterly
to the pain of all minds, all bodies.
… He took to Himself
the sum total of anguish and drank
even the lees of that cup:
within the mesh of the web, Himself
woven within it, yet seeing it,
seeing it whole.
Every sorrow and Desolation
He saw, and sorrowed in kinship.
How does Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross provide a holding place for our experiences of God-forsakenness as well as the times when we have been the ones who have abandoned and betrayed God’s image? How does Jesus save us from the darkness within and without? Levertov reflecting Julian of Norwich says that Jesus is woven into the very mesh of the web of sorrow and desolation.
In II Corinthians, Paul says that Jesus “became sin who knew no sin.” Jesus becomes the broken image of God. Perhaps we are reconciled to God by Jesus’s transformation of the very image of God which has been broken and cast aside. Rather than being destroyed by sin and suffering, God’s presence within sin and suffering holds out the hope of healing and redemption. Julian’s most famous quote as she ponders sin and redemption hints at this – “… but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”