Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon (or as I like to call him… my boy Fenelon) was the Archbishop of Cambrai in the 17th century. He became a spiritual advisor to a host of people in France including Louis XIV. As such he penned a great many letters of spiritual advice, some of which have been collected, translated, and abridged by the Whitaker House publishing company into a book entitled Let Go… Anyway, back in seminary I read through these letters for a devotion class, but admittedly I didn’t appreciate the quiet wisdom these letters held. Since, then I have rediscovered them (in the back of my car), and recently this little book has helped center my thoughts and prayers.
I want to share a portion of one letter that has been a challenge to me this past week. It comes from letter 17, entitled “Quietness in God Our True Resource”… in it Fenelon writes,
When it comes to accomplishing things for God, you will find that high aspirations, enthusastic feelings, careful planning and being able to express yourself well are not worth very much. The important thing is absolute surrender to God. You can do anything He wants you to do if you are walking in the light of full surrender.
Living in this blessed way involves a continual death which is known to very few, but it is in this position that you can really be effective for God. A single word spoken to another person from this restful, abandoned position will do more to change circumstances than all our most eager and carefully planned schemes. You see, when you speak from this position of abandonment to God, it is the Spirit of God who is then speaking, and the word you speak out of context loses none of its force or authority. Only one word perhaps – but it enlightens, persuades, blesses, and moves to action. We have accomplished everything, and have scarcely said anything. On the other hand, if the old self gets the way, we end up talking forever. We discuss a thousand different possibilities. We are constantly afraid of not saying or doing enough. We get angry, excited, exhausted, distracted, and finally make no headway at all.
I can be a bit vociferous… for some reason I feel the need to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk to get my point across in a lot of different situations… especially when I am passionate about something. But, what Fenelon rightly points out is that all the talking in the world, all the action in the world won’t accomplish a darn thing if we don’t surrender our will to the Father. More and more I do find it to be true: quiet is a spiritual exercise… it’s a scary one, but important. Because it is in the quiet that our deepest longings, fears, joys, and triumphs come bubbling to the surface, unimpedded by the noise of life. And then we can give them over to the Lord and let his will rule in our lives.
Thanks Fenelon for that reminder.