All Will Be Well

This is the song I’ve been listening to over and over all week (since discovering it on the soundtrack of a Parks and Recreation episode).

Julian of Norwich, that odd medieval mystic, famously said “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” And this is a statement of faith that I hear quoted a lot, both from people who share Julian’s Christian faith and those who most emphatically don’t. It’s a statement that I love but find hard to believe.

As near as I can figure from my reading, when Julian said it she meant it in the broadest cosmic sense — in fact, she was probably expressing the theological idea that today we would call Universalism — that no-one will be lost, that God will, in the end, find a way to save all creation. This is an idea I found powerfully appealing (though not necessarily Scriptural) — but I think many of the Christians who like to quote this line might disagree with this idea.

A lot of people seem to use “all will be well” as general sort of assurance, a kind of “everything will work out in the end” when you’re going through hard times. I struggle with this, not least because it’s certainly not a kind of assurance Julian would have recognized. As a medieval mystic, she not only expected but welcomed suffering, another perspective not shared by most modern Christians. I assume many Christians who say “All will be well” today mean that somehow, God is in charge and things will pretty much work out, even though you might be having some tough times now.

Some days I believe that, but some days I don’t. I’ve lived a life blessedly free (so far) of shocking tragedies, but I see enough horrific tragedies and senseless losses in the lives of those around me that I find it hard to trust that God is going to just “work things out.” As for those who don’t have any religious faith but still quote this? I have no idea what they’re trusting. The universe? Karma? Either way, “all will be well” doesn’t seem to be working out very well for either the Christians or the atheists of my acquaintance — unthinkable tragedy seems to hit both groups equally.

So I’ll admit I struggle. I don’t see either God or a beneficent universe offering people any guarantees that everything will work out OK, which means that whenever someone says “All will be well,” my chattery inner voice jumps up and says, “Well, maybe it will and maybe it won’t, but it’s distinctly possible that God’s definition of ‘well’ may be incompatible with mine, and how ‘well’ did things work out for the parents of that poor kid who died last week, and and and and ….”

Suffice it to say I have a hard time drawing comfort from these words.

And yet, when I heard this song by the Gabe Dixon Band, I just fell into it like I fall into bed at the end of a hard day. It warmed me. It comforted me. I listen to it over and over again.

I’m a wordy person, but sometimes words need music with them for me. Especially if they’re going to connect to me at a level that goes deeper than my incessantly-analyzing rational mind.

When I hear people quote “All will be well,” I think “Yeah, but ….” When I hear Gabe Dixon sing “All will be well,” I feel it. I feel that all will be well. Maybe it’s because the song itself acknowledges that all-wellness is problematic — that the fight is just as frustrating as well, and sometimes this is hard to tell. But I think it’s just that music gets past my defenses. I know there’s no rational way to understand how “All will be well,” that I can’t pull out a signed contract from God or the Universe or Whoever guaranteeing that I and all those I love will be safe from major trauma and I will triumphantly overcome all obstacles. But when I sing along, I don’t need that. “All will be well” is not about the rational mind. It’s about something deeper and more inarticulate — an attitude that approaches this big, scary life with openness and hope rather than with fear and dread.

It’s true in a part of me that theology and reason can’t reach, but music can. All will be well.

4 Replies to “All Will Be Well”

  1. When I think and say this mantra, I mean it in a very broad sense, although I hope it in a much narrower sense. I believe it in the way that I believe another quote. This time from the even more odd mystic, Mel Gibson. 😉 At least that’s who I heard say it. It’s not like the old quote, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” I heard Gibson say once that “Everything will be okay in the end. And, if not, then everything will be okay in the end.” I took that to mean it might not be okay right now or how we want it to be but someday again it will be. Maybe that won’t be until after we die or maybe it will mean when the time has passed for our pain to lessen or when we realize the pain taught us a lesson. But in the end it will be okay. One way or the other. Dancing on the floor, deep in the ground, or high in the sky, one day it will be okay. And all will be well. If not, then I lived in false hope. There are worse things.

    1. I think the problem with that is that it’s too distant to be comforting to me. I want things to be ALL RIGHT NOW, or at least very soon. But, as I said, I find the song comforting without having to analyze exactly when and how it’ll all be well.

      It’s true that if anyone’s an odder mystic than Julian of Norwich, it’s Mel Gibson. Too bad we can’t wall him up in an anchorage attached to a church wall and have him only accessible to people who make the pilgrimage to his tiny window to see him.

      Also, why hasn’t “Medieval Anchorite 2015” become a reality show yet? Huh? HUH????

  2. There is a Gaither song about that that has comforted me a lot. For the life of me, I can’t remember it now. Isn’t that weird? But it has a line that says either it will get better here, or it will get better once we get to Heaven. Either way, it’ll improve! I obviously don’t want the long wait, but it does comfort me. There are songs that comfort me in a way that words don’t. I agree. They spark hope in spite of our rational selves.

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