When I was a young child, I suffered from terrible nightmares. Every couple of months, I’d start crying out in my sleep. My parents would rush in to comfort me, but they’d have a difficult time waking me up. Finally, their efforts would be successful, and I’d begin to calm down. Usually, at this point, my dad would return to bed and my mother would rock me to sleep. I can vividly remember the feeling of being safe in her arms, protected from the terrors that had filled my sleep.
Psalm 131 uses such an image to convey what it’s like to have a calm and quiet soul. David, who wrote this psalm, learned not to concern himself with matters that were too great for him to grasp. Rather, he humbled himself as a child in a mother’s lap: “I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk” (131:2). The original Hebrew of this passage reads, more literally, “I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child upon his mother.” The image conveys, not a solitary child making himself feel better, but rather a young child who is comforted and reassured in the lap of his mother.
How tempting it is for us to concern ourselves with matters that are too great for us, with needs and problems that exceed our grasp. We can try to run the world, or at least our part of it, as if we had the authority and ability to do so. The result of such presumption is a sense of worry and frustration. How much better if we learned from David how to humble ourselves and find rest in the lap of our God who comforts us like a loving mother with her young child. From that place of security, we will find the strength and wisdom to do our part in the world, serving the only One who has the power and right to run the world.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When are you tempted to concern yourself with matters that are too great for you? What helps you to be humble and quiet in the “lap” of God?
PRAYER: O Lord, you know how easy it is for me to have a proud heart, to feel as if I need to take charge for that which is not my responsibility. I do have a tendency to take upon myself that which is rightly yours, as if it were my job. Forgive me for my arrogance and folly.
Help me, dear Lord, to humble myself as a young child, to know the safety of your embrace, even as I once experienced the safety of my mother’s lap. May I trust you, release myself to you, lean back into your loving strength.
Thank you, gracious God, for being so present to me, so faithful, so strong when I need you. Amen.