The sun sifts a golden path across the satiny surface of the clouds beneath us. A small ribbon of rainbow curves itself around its luminous source. Through gaps in the clouds I see, far below, lakes transformed into mirrors, reflecting back the silver brilliance from above.
It’s easy to remember up here. He made it. He loves it. He looks after it. It’s all painted with his glory. We fly, suspended 36,000 feet above the earth. Held, yes, by the forces of lift beneath the craft. Held more truly by the One in whom it all holds together.
Ears pop and water bottles crackle and suck in their emptiness as we descend. We fall through the layers where misty clouds wisp past, wrapping us in fog. For moments, we see nothing. Then down into the darker world below where we think we can see again. Clay colored roofs of long boxy warehouses. Train cars in long lonely lines, silent and discarded. Brown earth fringed with white frost. And the maze of white and yellow-lined runways with their numbered red and white, yellow and black signs directing traffic.
It’s harder to remember down here. That’s why I carry treasure in my pocket, a tiny nugget of potential life. Each time I slip on my coat, slide my hand into my pocket, my hand curls around it and I remember the larger hand curled around me, protecting, loving, holding.
“He made me. He loves me. He looks after me.” The words echo, reminding me of truth.
It’s just a tiny hazelnut, but it’s one of the best gifts I’ve been given. Maybe because it’s always there in my pocket, reminding me again and again. Maybe because it echoes the forever gift of love that is always reaching toward us.
The nut was given with words from Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century woman who lived close to the heart of God.
“And then he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand – and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind’s eye and I thought: ‘What can this be?’ And answer came: ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing, it was so small. And the answer came into my mind: ‘It lasts, and ever shall, because God loves it.’ And so all things have being through the love of God.
In this little thing I saw three truths. The first is that God made it. The second is that God loves it. And the third is that God looks after it.
We need to know how small creation is, and to count all things that are made as nothing, if we are to love and have God who is not created. For this is the reason we are not at rest in heart and soul – that here we seek rest in things that are so little there is no rest in them – and we do not know our God who is all-mighty, all-wise, and all-good. For he is true rest.
God’s will is that we know him, and it rejoices him when we rest in him. For all that is less than him cannot satisfy us.
‘God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. There is nothing less I can ask that is worthy of you, and if I ask for anything less I shall be always lacking, for only in you I have all.’
For his goodness encompasses all his creatures, and all his blessed works. He has made us for himself alone, and has restored us by his blessed passion, and keeps us in his blessed love. And he does all this through his goodness.” (Julian of Norwich in “All Shall be Well” abridged and arranged by Sheila Upjohn)
(Shhh. . . can you keep a secret? Come Christmas morning, I’m going to share the joy that I rediscover every time I put my hand in my pocket. Each person in the family from the Grandpa right down to his four year old grandson (not the eighteen month old, not yet) will find a little reminder in the toe of their stocking, a hazelnut to help them remember that they’re made and loved and looked after. The adults will get a copy of Julian’s words above, and the children, the following paraphrased version. Both are available as printable pdfs below in case you’d like to share hazelnut reminders in stockings or on nightstands as well.)
The children’ version:
Once upon a time, about 600 years ago, there was a woman named Julian who asked God to help her understand how much He loved her, and to help her love Him back with all her heart. God answered her prayer and gave her some special pictures to help her understand how much He loved her.
In one of the pictures, God showed her something small and round, the size of a hazelnut or an acorn, in the palm of her hand. She looked at it and wondered, “What is it?” And God told her, “It is the whole universe – the world and the stars and everything.” She was surprised that it could last, because it was so small that it looked like it might just break or roll away. God told her, “It lasts, and always will, because God loves it.”
God gave Julian this picture to help her understand three very important things. The first is that God made the world (and you!) The second is that God loves the world (and you!) And the third is that God looks after the world (and you!)
God helped Julian understand that we need to know how small everything is, and that it exists because God loves it. When we think that toys and friends and other things in the world makes us happy and safe, we get scared because somewhere deep down we know that all those things can change. Toys break and friends move away and none of them really make us happy for very long, even though they’re lots of fun for a while. But when we remember that God made us and God loves us and God looks after us, it helps us not be scared. We – and everything in the world – are teeny tiny compared to God, just like the hazelnut in your hand is teeny tiny compared to you. But God never lets go of you. He made you and He loves you and He will look after you forever. So, if you like, you can keep this hazelnut in your coat pocket and every time you put your hand in your pocket, you can remember that God made you, God loves you, and God looks after you and the whole world.
Julian of Norwich hazelnut vision - printable adult and child versions