Walking Through Life God's Way

Monday, April 8, 2013

Experiencing the depths of the abundant life : Madam Jeanie Guyon

Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717) is becoming a favorite of the classic writers for Spiritual Formation. A product of French high society, Jeanne was raised in convents from the age of two and a half. At ten years old, she found a Bible left in her room and began earnestly to study and memorize it. From then on, she pursued an exclusive devotion to God.

She married at 16 to an older man who left her a widow with three young children at the age of 28. With the wealth her husband had left her, she devoted the remaining 40 years of her life to serving God through personal evangelism, writing, and helping the poor. She founded hospitals and gave away much of her wealth anonymously.

She traveled throughout France and Switzerland teaching people how to pray and challenging them to live holy lives. She mainly met with people privately and avoided "preaching." All the while, she sought an ever-deeper union with God to the point that she felt God possessed her, speaking and acting through her.

So what was the problem? Well, the Roman Catholic Church at that time opposed her Quietism, which teaches that spiritual perfection can be attained when self is lost in the contemplation of God. The authorities also warned her that it was the business of priests to pray, not women, and certainly not in the way she prayed -- with intimacy, from her heart. Unmoved by intimidation and popular among all levels of society, she fearlessly used every chance to share her spiritual ideas with everyone she encountered.

Finally, the church had her arrested and sent to prison for seven years, the last two in solitary confinement in the Bastille. She continued to write, having produced a 20-volume commentary on the Bible, an autobiography, and many short works,  "The Way to
God" and "A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer."

She shared a 25-year spiritual friendship with Archbishop Francois de Fenelon, the most celebrated churchman of that day. Their letters, over 100, have been called "one of the most precious documents for the study of mystic thought transmitted to us from the past."

After King Louis XIV released her from prison, Madame Guyon lived another 15 years, suffering patiently and glorifying God in her illnesses, until she died at age 69.

"If Madame Guyon could come to our home for a cup of coffee and conversation what one question would you most want ask her?" I know I would not be able to contain my time with her to one question. First, where does the hope in suffering grant a believer the ability to "Plunge into the very depths of the words you read until revelation, like sweet aroma, break out upon you." Where was she when she wrote these words? Did the scriptures bring a sweet aroma, because the confinement was in a place that was filled with such horrible smells?

Second, I would want to know what passages spoke to her in hardest times and in her greatest triumphs. I would want to know why? During her confinement was she allowed to have a bible with her, or did she have the words memorized. If her writings emerged from when she was confined, how did she get them out?

Third, I would ask her to talk to me about how the Holy Spirit transformed her in seeking an "inward approach" to God. Explain to me how God revealed to her the truth as she wrote to us, "You should always remember that you are not doing this to gain some understanding of what you have read; rather, you are reading in order to turn your mind from outward things to the deep parts of your being." The deep parts of my being have a tendency to groan and long for heaven and home. How does transformation in time of persecution enhance these longings.

The fourth question is that there is comfort in the name of the Lord for those that are oppressed. There is also great pressure for those under confinement and persecution to grow in their faith because it is often the only thing to hold on to. My question is, "What comfort is there in not being confined or oppressed?" It seems that I am not confined nor am I oppressed, I live in a mediocrity driven religious world that wants to coexist. What advice does she have for a person like me?

The fifth question is simply to ask her to pray for me. I would love to just sit and listen to her pray. I want to experience how she relates to God and how God relates to her. I would love to just sit and listen to her words pray over me and allow the Holy Spirit to immerse the moment. 

You know I love ya, Don



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