What is more peaceful than a child sleeping in its mother’s arms? It calls one to contemplation, to rest in God’s loving embrace.
Psalm 131 is a psalm of trust, complete, absolute trust in a loving God. It also is a contemplative psalm. It is the most restful psalm in the Psalter. In this psalm God is presented as a mother, nursing her child.
The writer has set aside his desire for acclaim or greatness in the eyes of the world. “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.” (1)
We don’t whether he has always been this humble, or if he has seen the error of his ways. As one commentator states: “Once he had a heart that craved wealth, luxury, and pleasure, eyes that were set on power and station, and a mind that busied itself with matters beyond its ability to understand. He was in consequence full of unrest, for pride, envy, and pretentiousness gave him no peace. But now all of that has changed.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 4)
We don’t know exactly what brought about this change of heart. Perhaps it was the natural course of aging. Others suggest that this psalm was originally a sequel to a lament. Having received a favorable response to his appeal for help, he was now basking in gratitude and trust in God. “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.” (2)The author experiences a return to the innocence and peace of childhood, a common theme in literature.
This is a psalm of re-orientation, following Brueggemann’s classifications. Having gone through a time of disorientation, the author has returned to his state of trust in God. His hope in God has been confirmed. The writer ends with instructions to Israel to have this hope. “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.” (3)
Much as we may desire to return to the innocence of our childhood, we can’t live our lives there. Children grow up, we grow up. We each have a mission to fulfill in this life which requires us leaving the comfort of our homes. Still, it’s nice to know we have a place of rest that we can return to when we need it. When life is crazy, when we find ourselves pumped up with false pride, all we need do is come to God like a small child and rest in God’s loving arms.
Does the image of God as Mother speak to you? Explore this image for God as well as other images. (Chapter 3 in my book, Who Me? Full of Grace?, has a section on this.)
Have you ever felt led into contemplative prayer while rocking a sleeping child?
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