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Hope is Now: Like a Child Quieted

Reflections from Our Pastors

   Mothers Day. I like to ponder the lovely fact that Mary taught Jesus the Psalms from memory. She prayed them with him daily. She saw and heard his trembling voice in agony praying Psalms from the cross.

A few of the Psalms touch on mothers and their children. Psalm 139 hearkens back to when you were in your mother’s womb, and God was there too. Psalm 113 seems to have the story of Hannah, after battling infertility forever, finally giving birth to Samuel.

Psalm 131 is an especially wise, profound Psalm – while being elegantly simple, and memorable. Charles H. Spurgeon said this Psalm is “one of the shortest to read, but the longest to learn.”

“My heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high, I do not occupy myself with things too great for me.” Humility. No overreach, no cockiness. We fawn over those who are powerful and strut about. It’s all about climbing, getting to the top. But the one who knows God, the one who’s prayed Psalms, is humble.

“I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast.” What more tender, lovely image could there be? A restless, squirming, squawling child, held close to mom, calmed, quieted. Where do we go when we’re agitated, anxious, fearful? Do we self-medicate? Try distractions, busy-ness? Wring our hands? The Psalmist turns to God. Sounds easier than it is – but reading Psalms, over and over, achieves this childlike peace and calm.

Didn’t Jesus love this theme of “unless you become like a child”? Did he recall this Psalm, his memory resonating with his mother’s voice, and the ways she had calmed him countless times? Eugene Peterson called this a “maintenance psalm.” It prunes what might look good but isn’t so healthy for us. He speaks of “aspiration” as a virtue, dreaming of good, fruit, holiness, and mattering to others, vs. “ambition,” which is all about me, and can never be satisfied. He says “ambition is aspiration gone crazy.”

The Hebrew is uncertain. Instead of “quieted” it might mean “weaned.” Weaning isn’t cruel; it’s not abandoning your child to starve. It’s letting the child mature into its own being. A weaned child is a tad more independent – and yet still terribly dependent upon the mother, and thus upon God.

The little one’s eyes are interesting. A newborn’s vision (as I reported in my book, Birth: The Mystery of Being Born) “usually is about 20/400 – which, as it turns out, is perfect. If you’re a newborn, do you care what’s happening outside the window or even across the room? You need to see mom, and she’s right where you actually can see her.” Some spiritual wisdom in there. We look off into the future, or all around, spying trouble, menaces on the horizon. Faith is looking closely at the one who is always close: God our Mother.

Our short Psalm begins in humility, slows down with mother and child, then ends with “Hope in the Lord.” Hope isn’t optimism. It’s seeing, trusting, and being calmed by the Mother. Weaned or not, we’re sticking with the one who brought us here.

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