Of all the old mystic's writings that I have read, I found Fenelon's maxims, the clearest and most practical. Last night, I stumbled across a fellow by the name of Fred, who has made a friend of François Fénelon. Below Fred and Fenelon share some wonderful insights for our advancement in God. I have highlighted that which I thought exceptional. As a last note, if there be anything I would hope others to know, it would be, "seek the map maker instead of the map." So many fretting souls are about figuring out what's going to happen, when we can be satisfied to know "God is happening ...... and He is happening within our lives right now!"
FRED'S FRIEND FENELON
1. The Presence precedes the plan.
For years younger people have asked me how they could know God's plan for their life. While reading Fénelon and other saints, I find they are not concerned with that question. Their concern is not with the plan but with the Presence. When we have a guide, we don't need a map. Without the Presence we attempt work for God instead of letting God work through us. Fénelon said: Put aside your self-interest and simply let God's will unfold around you. Everything he does for you is for your good. Worship him without having to know and see everything. Continue doing the good things that you do since you feel that you should and you can do them so easily. Be careful that all your extra energy does not lead you into trouble and, above all, live in the present moment and God will give you all the grace you need. He continues, Live your daily life out in the presence of God. He will give you all that you need. God's glory and his purpose are the end of all things. You will find happiness and salvation there but not as an end in itself. It is all for God.
2. Self-love is subtle.
"You will be tempted to speak out in a humble tone of voice to tell others of your problems. Watch out for this. A humility that is still talkative does not run very deep. When you talk too much, your self-love relieves his sense of shame a little."
Fénelon goes on to say: "Self love is proud of its spiritual accomplishments. You must lose everything to find God for himself alone. You won't begin to let go of yourself until you have been thrown off a cliff. He takes away to give back in a better way." "Self-interest and pride cause you to reject the gifts of God, because they do not come in a way that suits your taste. He asks for nothing but death, and you desire nothing but life." "Selfishly loving yourself shunts your spirit. You put yourself in a straitjacket when you are enclosed in self. When you come out of that prison you experience how immense God is and how he set his children free. Be humble. Do not trust the old nature."
He probes even deeper: So to strip self-love of its mask is the most humiliating punishment that can be inflicted. You see that you are no longer as wise, patient, polite, self-possessed, and courageous in sacrificing yourself for others as you had imagined. You are no longer fed by the belief that you need nothing. . . . You no longer think that your greatness and generosity deserve a better name than self-love. However, you are further tormented because you also weep and rage that you have cried at all. What your old nature fears the most is necessary for its destruction.
3. Suffering is useful.
Fénelon speaks of suffering as God's exercise program, his gymnasium: Suffering is necessary for all of us. You will be purified by dying to see your own desires and will. Let yourself die. You have excellent opportunities for this to happen. Don't waste them. . . . God never makes you suffer unnecessarily. He intends for your suffering to heal and purify you. The hand of God hurts you as little as it can. The yoke that God gives is easy to bear if you accept it without struggling to escape.
4. One test of relation with God is peace.
Fénelon recommended Guyon: "Encourage peace, become deaf to your overactive imagination. Your spinning imagination will harm your health and make your spiritual life very dry. You worry yourself sick for no good reason. Inner peace and the sweet presence of God are chased away by restlessness."
Or, consider, "Peace and comfort are to be found only in simple obedience. Remain at peace, for peace is what God wants for you no matter what is happening. There is in fact a peace of conscience which sinners should enjoy as they are repenting. Suffering should be peaceful and tempered with God's comfort."
And regarding the future: "Live in peace without worrying about the future. Unnecessary worrying and imagining the worst possible scenario will strangle your faith."
He warned "there never is peace in resisting God . . . . Allow yourself to be humble. If you are silent and peaceful when humiliating things happen to you, you will grow in grace." And "The point of trusting God is not to do great things that you can feel good about, but to trust God from a place of deep weakness. Here's a way to know if you are actually trusting God with something. You will not think about the matter any longer nor will you feel a lack of peace."
5. Silence brings blessings.
Fénelon: "Try to practice silence as much as general courtesy permits. Silence encourages God's presence, prevents harsh words, and causes you to be less likely to say something you will regret. Silence also helps you put space between you and the world. Out of the silence that you cultivate you will get strength to meet your needs."
6. Growth and change are the work of the cross.
Fénelon has helped me to think of the work of the cross--redemption--as the constant tension of growth and change as the old nature gives way to the new. It is a process that starts with the new birth and ends at the close of our earthly journey, by which time we are hopefully more mature in the likeness of Christ.
Fénelon said to Mme. Guyon, "Bear your cross. Do you know what this means? Learn to see yourself as you are and accept your weakness until it pleases God to heal you. If you die a little every day of your life, you won't have too much to worry about on your final day."
Then with assurance he says, "You and I are nothing without the cross. I agonize and cry when the cross is working within me, but when it is over I look back in admiration for what God has accomplished. Of course I am then ashamed I bore it so poorly."
7. The focused life is the simple life.
"Our hidden agendas can poison the simplicity of a situation. The desire to do a work for God is simple enough, but I greatly complicate it when I add the hidden agenda of wanting to be recognized and appreciated while doing it."
8. Give grace to yourself and others.
I can almost hear Fénelon say, "Lighten up." He wrote: "Do not be surprised to find yourself overly sensitive, impatient, proud, and self-willed. Realize that this is your natural disposition. Bear with yourself, but do not flatter yourself into thinking you are better than you are but wait on God's timing to transform it. Stop at once when your activities become too hurried."
Madame Guyon, a rich and beautiful widow and close friend of Fénelon, woke many souls to share her love for God. For this she was vilified, harassed, imprisoned, and her writings condemned. Fénelon stood by her at great personal cost.
For a brief biography of FENELON