Friday, 9 April 2010

Psalm 131 - Resting like a child in the arms of God

 My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty;  I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul;  like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.

We have just had the addition of Lola to our family … the image of a baby with mother is clear in my mind. In the first month I saw her about 4 times. She did not open her eyes and she looked so peaceful in the arms of mother. To her nothing else existed and nothing else mattered … and so this verse causes me to think that in some way that is to be an important aspect of my relationship with God. The Greek word for that early need of affection is ‘Storge’. Here is a description from C.S.Lewis book “Four Loves”
Storge ... ‘affection, especially of parents to offspring’; but also of offspring to parents. And that, I have no doubt, is the original form of the thing as well as the central meaning of the word. The image we must start with is that of a mother nursing a baby, a bitch or a cat with a basketful of puppies or kittens; all in a squeaking, nuzzling heap together; purrings, lickings, baby-talk, milk, warmth, the smell of young life.
Herbert Ratner, M.D. tells us:
Research shows that the newborn is responsive to the face from birth. The response is initially elicited by the eyes and forehead, and subsequently, by the full face. This coincides with the focal length of the newborn's vision which is about nine inches, a measure that approximates the distance from the baby at the breast to the mother's eyes and face. In contrast to the perceptual ability of primates whose young are mobile and clinging, the eyes of the immobilized infant, during the early months of nursing, are steadily fixed on the mother's face. When the Psalmist pleads to God to turn His "shining face" upon him, he echoes the acceptance the nursling seeks from its mother, its source of security.
The infant's need to be held, carried and comforted bespeaks the woman's cradling arms, arms that contrast significantly with the throwing arms of the male. The difference is not only evident in sports, but is even seen in the way children carry their books: boys at their sides; girls in front of them with flexed arms. The girls' inclinations to encircle and encompass foretells the future cradling of the nursling close to the heart and breast of an initiation of a bosom friendship.

Now, I am aware that the idea of ‘weaned’ implies a weaning away from the mothers breast but I feel a liberty to see in this the image of a child at its mother’s breast.
‘I have stilled and quieted myself my soul’ … Whereas the baby has no choice in the matter we have a responsibility to still and quieten our soul … but we find it so hard to rest in God in such a way.
‘Be still and know that I am God’ says the psalmist. First of all there is a physical element in this. We can be so busy – we need to simply sit down and be still – have some time out. We can be so busy as though our lives depended on it.  If we are not busy our lives have can have no meaning. Our identity can be wrapped up in our work which is fine until we retire or are made redundant … but then we soon find things to fill the time … keep our selves busy. We don’t find the idea of ‘stillness in God’s presence’ very appealing. Praying is hard enough but at least it has some purpose! Working for God is sometimes so much easier than resting in Him. Perhaps that is why he has to allow us to get to such a point. We do well to take heed to the saying: “Some desert the saviour and enter his service instead”.
“We have forgotten how to exist – to be – we can only think about being.”
But maybe yes we have lost our energies we do get weary  ... the truth is we do spend a lot more time being still physically resting. … but OUR MINDS are so busy … there is so much mental noise. Far from being still in Gods ‘present – ness’ our minds are either reliving the past which is unreal because it is now only an interpretation of the past … or racing ahead into the future … it can be very subtle but I know a person who was so irritated by the person they worked with in the office that even before the workday had begun his predictions based upon past experience almost made it a self fulfilling prophecy. He was living in the past experience which so coloured his present he could see things in no other way until the light dawned and he realised that each day was new in the presence of God and he discovered that things were not bad at all with that person – he had created accumulatively … so our past can so often control our lives that we are no longer living in the present and the love that is contained therein.
But perhaps I am being unfair there are those who spend a lot of time in study and in thought about God and Scripture … Still I would say there is room to simply put all that to one side so we can say:  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees “…you diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”(J 5:38) John Wimber after giving a sermon was shaking hands at the door. A lady shook his hand and waved a piece of paper up in the air saying, “I’ve got the notes!”. “Poor lady” thought Wimber,” She ate the menu but missed the meal”. So our academic readings and knowledge of the Bible are no substitute for an intimate resting in God. Reading the Bible is good but it can be so conceptual and fail to take us to the place of intimacy with God. We need to learn to be like a little child again.

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