I’ve been mediating on Psalm 131 since my mother drew my attention to it shortly before Christmas of last year.
Like many things in Scripture the depth and richness of this passage have taken on a deeper meaning since I became a mother in September of 2013 (on that note, I am continually amazed at the unceasing richness of Scripture; it’s not that every devotional time is filled with new revelations but that this book is evergreen in its ability to speak to various stages of the human life).
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
Choosing to posture yourself in dependent humility is a decision to, at least temporarily, choose stillness and reflection. To lay aside physical, mental and spiritual busyness. I love David’s checklist of things he is choosing not to do; engage in intense emotions, be mired in anxiety or theological debates, look ahead into the future or try to immediately find answers to every question that disturbs him.
In loving God with his heart he is delighting in his position as God’s child. He is seeking rest.
I ran across the following, beautiful words yesterday. By some miracle my little family slept in and I woke up refreshed a full 90 minutes before they did. When that happens, my first instinct will always be to see what I can get done while the house is quiet and little hands aren’t behind me undoing it as fast as I check it off my list. I compromised a bit – I spent five minutes sweeping up cracker crumbs that Evie had scattered around the living room couch, then…I sat. I read. I prayed. I meditated. I reflected.
I entered the “palace in time” that is the Sabbath.
“The Sabbath is a reminder of the two worlds–this world and the world to come; it is an example of both worlds. For the Sabbath is joy, holiness, and rest; joy is part of this world; holiness and rest are something of the world to come.
To observe the seventh day does not mean merely to obey or to conform to the strictness of a divine commandment.
To observe is to celebrate the creation of the world and to create the seventh day all over again, the majesty of holiness in time, a day of rest, a day of freedom, a day which is like a lord and king of all other days, a lord and king in the commonwealth of time…the seventh day is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere.” – Abraham Heschel
I chose to quiet my soul.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child in my soul within me.
David’s likening of his intentionally quieted soul to a weaned child is deeply poignant to me.
For the first fourteen months of her life I nursed Evie anywhere between 2-12 times a day. Those times with her, which are now memories, are achingly precious to me. The weight of her little body nestled in my arms as she ate, glancing sleepily (and, later on, not so sleepily) all around is something I am grateful we were able to experience together.
Early on though Tom & I learned something interesting: he was able to comfort Evie in a way that I was not.
When Evie was in my arms her instinct was for food. Immediately. She would squirm, cry and nestle closer and closer until she found what was looking for: nourishment.
When was she was in Tom’s arms her head would drop to his chest and she would snuggle, pressing closer and closer until she found what she was looking for: comfort.
When Evie weaned at the beginning of December there was a dramatic and immediate difference in her contentment in my arms. For the first time I was able to hold and comfort her without her looking for anything else. She was stilled by the simple fact that she was in my arms, enjoying her mama as a place of safety and peace.
How often my time with the Lord mirrors the same frantic need for something (often many things). I seek guidance, provision, direction, answers to prayer, discernment and patience – all well and good but how often do I just seek Him? How often do I allow myself the gift of simply receiving his comfort without asking for anything more?
Not often enough and the loss is my own.
Lord, grant me patience and grace to actively quiet my soul and receive the comfort I need.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
I wonder what David’s conclusion would have been had this Psalm been written from a place of active study, questioning or action?
“O Israel, take up your weapons, fight from this time forth and forevermore”.
“O Israel, study your texts, defend truth from this time forth and forevermore”.
“O Israel, open your homes, host your neighbors from this time forth and forevermore”.
I don’t want to negate the importance of any of those; part of loving God is challenging our minds, speaking what is true, serving our neighbors and working with diligence.
Yet, after his time of stillness with the Lord David’s conclusion is equally simple – a whispered afterthought to a Psalm breathed as a quiet prayer; an ode to the sacredness of silence.
O Israel, hope in the Lord. Always hope in the Lord.