Like a weaned child
Sometimes I skim over verses in the Bible that don’t mean anything to me personally without taking time to delve into them. I’d read the Psalms several times and always flew through Psalm 131 without really getting what it meant. I don’t remember being weaned and I doubt you do either, since it usually happens before a child reaches the age of 2. So what exactly does a weaned child do? Or feel? Or think?
At my first silent retreat, I spent a whole day praying, reading the Bible, writing in my journal and reflecting on my relationship with God. Toward late afternoon, I curled up in a chair by the window in my room. The warm sun and the muffled sounds of a gentle breeze and distant traffic lulled me to sleep. When I awoke, I felt incredibly refreshed and content. Psalm 131:2 popped into my mind. It was an “aha” moment. I suddenly knew what the psalmist meant when he said, “I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions. I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.”
In that first moment after waking, I had felt utterly at peace, with no sense of need or worry and no thoughts. A contented sigh was all that came out of me. I felt so full of God I could agree with Horatio Spafford that all was indeed well with my soul.
If you are having trouble relating, perhaps you are too busy. Life is full of stress, and it’s not often we can say with the psalmist that our souls are still and quiet. It’s usually the opposite, isn’t it? Our souls are usually troubled and anxious, and our problems do seem like the sea billowing over us with no life raft in sight. I don’t believe life is meant to be lived that way. Our minds and bodies aren’t made to be in a constant state of anxiety with adrenalin rushes one after the other.
Archibald Hart, professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, likens our nerves to a giant rubber band. When we live under constant stress, our rubber-band nerves get stretched over and over — and finally they give out.
Is your rubber band near the breaking point? Have your nerves had it? You might not have time for a three-day silent retreat, but you can still lessen the stress in your daily routine. Yes, I know, you’ve heard this before. But who knows, maybe this is the time you’ll finally do something about it.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Many people don’t. Lack of sleep makes any situation worse. Eat breakfast. Your brain and your body need something to run on. Practice being grateful. Instead of complaining, thank God and others for every little blessing and grace. You’ll stay calmer if your focus is on gratitude rather than difficulties.
Finally, take time to talk with God. Make him part of your waking thoughts, your waiting thoughts (make standing in line a time of prayer), your whispering thoughts (turn self-talk into a time of prayer) and your waning thoughts (you could call this pillow talk with God).
Clichéd and worn out advice? Maybe. But the basics always work, and they just may help your worn out, over-stretched nerves get back in shape. You might even find yourself quoting Psalm 131:2 and humming, “It is well with my soul.”