Jean Guyon: Loving Devotion for a Young Believer
Abandon Yourself Wholly to Divine Love
Jean Guyon's1 letter speaks to me in a way that feels both timeless and urgently needed, especially for those who are beginning their transformational journey. I'm moved by her emphasis on the simple, heartfelt language of prayer. The further I travel along the Christian road, the more I find that prayer becomes a matter of simplicity, rather than complexity. Guyon also nudges me to see that my connection with God isn't confined to these simple moments of quiet prayer; it's also alive in my day-to-day tasks that often feel monotonous. How often I forget this. God is ever-present, waiting for me to gently turn my attention inward to the space he inhabits. I'm eager to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to share them in the comments.
To a young friend:
You are very dear to me, my child.
Do not think I have forgotten you. God alone can render you happy. Give yourself wholly to him, never more to take yourself back. Love him with all your heart. Retire often within the closet of your heart to commune with God. Do not pray to him in a constrained and formal manner, but all simple and natural. God loves better the affectionate language of the heart, than, the cold and discursive thoughts of the intellect. The prayer of love softens the heart.
Do not shrink from your ordinary duties. We are often more united to God, in our daily avocations, than in retirement. The reason is, our good Father holds us more closely, when we are most exposed to temptations. Endeavor to maintain, at all times, harmony and oneness with God. You have only to abandon yourself wholly to divine love, and perform all the duties that devolve upon you. Do not be restive [Impatient or uneasy], and thus mar God's beautiful design and operation upon your soul. Place in his bosom of rest, all your inquietudes [anxiety or worries], and allow him to carry you, as a little child is borne by its mother. This little one has only to regard, lovingly, the smiles of its tender mother.
God will give you a wise discernment as to food and drink, and all the pleasures of life. He calls us to a temperate life, but not to a life too austere. We should avoid the too much and the too little in eating and drinking.
I pray our divine Lord, to enlighten, strengthen and comfort your heart.2
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Madam Jean Guyon (1565-1648) was a French mystic and non-conformist spiritual teacher who dedicated her life to a deep, personal relationship with the divine. She wrote extensively on her experiences of the divine and its mystical nature, ultimately forming a method of prayer which she called “spiritual union”. She was born into a well-known noble family and was married off at the age of 13, eventually bearing three children. Her early life was marked by a great deal of suffering and she found solace in the works of spiritual writers, such as Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. Guyon was widely known and respected during her lifetime and she had a considerable influence on the development of spirituality in France and beyond. Her devotional works and letters have been reprinted in multiple languages, and her teachings continue to be studied and practiced by seekers of inner and spiritual growth.
Upham, P. L.. Letters of Madam Guyon. N.p.: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.