If there is one thing that’s clear in Scripture, it is that God is a lord—or, rather, the Lord—and we are his servants. He commands, and no matter the cost, we obey. “Abram, leave your family and go into the land I will show you.” Yes, Lord. “Isaiah, carry my message to unfaithful, unyielding Israel.” Yes, Lord. “James, John, drop those nets and follow me.” Yes, Lord.
The absoluteness of his claims, the unyielding ultimacy, the unquestioned authority to command and demand all—they are at the core of the concept of God’s majestic sovereignty, his lordly dignity as our Creator-King. And they are all beautiful, true, and anchoring for the soul.
But for those already weighed down with the burdens of the past few months—staying healthy, keeping the finances afloat, maintaining some semblance of normalcy—the severity of his lordship can threaten to strain us to the spiritual breaking point.
Perhaps this is why I was charmed by Julian of Norwich’s discernment of another dimension of God’s lordship: his courtesy.
We usually think of courtesy as synonymous with simple politeness, and, well, if there’s something the God of the whirlwind is not, it is polite. More than mere manners, though, for Julian, God’s courtesy is his kindness, his consideration, his friendly magnanimity. Think of it as a lordly solicitude—the Lord’s greatness is magnified, not in abusive displays of power or lack of care for his servants but in his ability to concern himself with their welfare and dignity.
I think of Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3–4). God appeared to Moses in the lordly flame, called him, and commissioned ...1
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