Do Not Be Distressed by the Revelation of Self or the Absence of Feeling

It’s Fénelon Friday! Or at least it was yesterday. I guess I hit “save” instead of “post.” Oh well. This letter is just as good on Saturday as it would have been on Friday.

LETTER 20: Do Not Be Distressed by the Revelation of Self or the Absence of Feeling

I pray God that this New Year may be full of grace and blessing for you. I am not surprised to hear that you no longer enjoy reminiscing and meditation like you did when you were first recovering in your time of suffering. Everything changes. People of lively dispositions, accustomed to much activity, soon languish away into solitude and inactivity. (And that was your experience, wasn’t it?) And in fact, it was this very active disposition of yours which made me so concerned about how you would react to being confined and reduced to a life of quietness. Back in those “good old days,” nothing seemed impossible to you. You said with Peter, “It is good for us to be here!” But it is often with us as it was with him. We say this because we don’t know what we are talking about! (Mark 9:5-6) In our moments of enjoyment we feel as if we could do anything. And in times of temptation and discouragement, we think we can do nothing. And both ideas are wrong.

But now that you are getting back to your former self, you should not feel disturbed if it is getting more difficult for you to meditate. I think the cause of this lay concealed within you even when you were suffering and became so zealous about meditation. You are just naturally a very active and eager person. And it was only your weariness and exhaustion that made you long for a life of quietness. But now that things are getting back to normal, do not fear that you are losing the ground you gained during your suffering. For, by being faithful to God, the selfless life of abandonment which He revealed to you will gradually become a permanent part of your more active life. You had only a taste of it during your suffering. Now it will become a principle by which to live. God gave you that experience that you might see where He was leading you. Now He takes away the vividness of that experience that you might be made aware that even the experience does not belong to you. You must see that you are not able, in yourself, either to obtain or keep such an experience. It is a gift of grace that must be asked for in all humility.

So do not be surprised at again finding yourself becoming sensitive, impatient, haughty, and self-willed. You must be made to understand that this is your natural disposition, and without God’s grace, you will never be anything different. “We must bear the yoke of the daily confusion of our sins,” says St. Augustine. We must be made to feel our weakness, our wretchedness, our inability to correct ourselves. We must give up hope in ourselves, and have no hope but in God. Yet we must bear with ourselves, never flattering ourselves, selves, but never neglecting a single opportunity to correct ourselves.

We need to understand what kind of people we really are while waiting for God to change us. We need to become humble under His all-powerful hand. We need to become submissive and manageable as soon as we sense any resistance in our will. Be silent as much as you can. Be in no hurry to judge, but think through your decisions, your likes and dislikes. In your daily living, stop at once when you are aware that you are getting in too much of a hurry. And do not be too eager even for good things. Take your time.

Francis Fénelon, Let Go (New Kensington: Whitaker House, 1973).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s