I’ve been deeply touched by a book I’m reading about Mother Teresa’s more private life and thoughts. The book contains some of the letters she wrote to her mentors and spiritual advisors who were praying for her as she answered God’s call in founding the Missionaries of Charity.
I have to admit – I obtained this book because I wanted to know about the heart of this woman, and how she could possibly love so much. I wanted to know what her method was. But as I read the first chapter I was struck with the answer. She didn’t want anyone to know. Apparently Mother Teresa sent multiple requests for her private letters about her life’s calling to be destroyed because she did not want any credit to go to her…but only to God. As her ministry grew, she began receiving requests to be interviewed about her ministry and how “she” developed it. Instead of granting these interviews, she pleaded through various communications with leaders in her church to destroy her letters and documents. Some complied with her request, and others did not.
Here is one of her letters, written 3 years after her original request for the documents to be destroyed.
Now that you are looking through the file of our Society – I beg you to destroy any letter which I have written to His Grace – not connected with the Society. “The Call” was a delicate gift of God to me – unworthy – I do not know why He picked me up – I suppose like the people we pick up – because they are the most unwanted. From the first [day] to this day – this my new vocation has been one prolonged “yes” to God – without even a look at the cost. My conviction that “the work is His” – is more than the reality. I have never doubted. It hurts me only when the people call me foundress because I know for certain He asked – “Will you do this for Me?” Everything was His – I had only to surrender myself to His plan – to His will – Today His work has grown because it is He not I that do it through me. Of this I am so convinced – that I would give my life gladly to prove it – “
Two years ago a dear older friend and mentor asked me a question that I will never forget. We were emailing back and forth about a wrong perspective I was struggling with. I shared with her in-depth what I was struggling with, my feelings about it, and what I felt like I needed to do to change it. In her response she gracefully empathized but asked me to look back at my email and count how many times I had written the word “I”. I didn’t need to count to see that it was about every other word of my long email! What a gift she gave me. I started thinking about all those “I” statements and I tried to reword them into “He” statements. It gave me a completely new perspective on my situation…as well as a new hope.
We like the next new book, counseling program, or real-life story. And truly, those can be wonderful things if we ask God what He has for us through them. I think the danger comes when we look for a method to follow. Why don’t we believe that God has something personal for us?
Mother Teresa’s secret was simply being with the Father and saying “yes”. There was nothing magical about her. I’ve also learned that she lived a life of saying yes to God immediately, once she knew it was His will. Some criticized her for that – they said she didn’t think things through enough.
Well, before I try to turn this post into a formula….let me just say this – it’s about Him, and not me. And it’s a relief. Thankfully, Isaiah 41:10 doesn’t say this:
“Do not fear, for you are with you;
Do not be dismayed, for you are your God.
You will strengthen you and help you;
You will uphold you with your righteous right hand”