Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Like a Nursed Child

Psalm 131
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.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul
like a child who has just been nursed, with its mother;
like a nursed child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

Does my version of this psalm seem surprising? Yes, your translation most likely says, "weaned child" - but did you know that "a child who has just been nursed" is much closer to the original Hebrew?

Having nursed seven babies, I find it easy to visualize this scene. The psalm portrays a picture of a baby that is completely satisfied, relaxed, and at peace. The baby's hunger for milk has been stilled, it has enjoyed the feeling of being held closely, and is now drowsily and contentedly lying in its mother's arms. The baby feels loved and has not a worry in the world.

This is exactly what God desires for us in His presence. So often we call God "our Father," and rightly so, but God also created woman in his image. He wants to be our El Shaddai, our All Sufficient One. Literally translated, El Shaddai means the "Many Breasted One." He wants to nourish us and satisfy our needs just like a mother feeding her baby: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river... you shall nurse... As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;" (Isaiah 66:12+13)
Psalm 131 is a beautiful reminder that God is not a taskmaster but instead longs for us to be completely satisfied in Him. God is willing and able to bless us in this way, but we are required to play an active role. We are to learn to calm and quiet our souls.

When I nursed my children, there were some rare times when they refused to drink. I could have milk in abundance, but if they chose not to drink, they not only missed out on being filled, they also forfeited the comfort and peace nursing affords. In the same way, God does not force Himself upon us.

So, before we can rest in His presence, we must make an active decision to strive for that which is pure, letting go of all else. "So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow into salvation - if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2:11+12) Peter is presenting the believer with a choice: feeding on corruption and self-absorption or hungering for the things of God. In the same way the psalmist reminds us that he has had to choose between the worries and ambitions of this world, or setting his hope in the Lord, who promises to take care of our every need both today and every day to come.

Once we have chosen to lift up the Lord and find comfort in His greatness, let us drink!
Nursing takes a great deal of energy, time and attention for babies. They are rarely content with little sips. My newborns usually spent 30 minutes nursing, eight times a day. (While I learned to multitask!) When I looked down on each of my sweet babies, so intent and eager to fill themselves with wholesome milk, I often prayed, "Lord, make me always long for you and your ways like this baby is longing for milk." Practically speaking, this means taking the time and effort to set our focus on the Lord through prayer and meditation on his Word. We then learn to see ourselves through His eyes, which takes away our sinful desire to look good for others by means of slander and deceit. Longing for "pure milk" also entails deciding to believe God's promises instead of the worries which threaten to overpower us. Sometimes it even means wrestling with a difficult question until we come to the point of saying, "It is all yours, Lord. Your ways are perfect and good."

Then, and only then will we know by experience how the psalmist felt when he wrote this psalm. Then our soul will be like a nursed child.