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I Have Stilled and Quieted My Soul

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secure as a baby

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me. –
 Psalm 131:2

I grew up meditating on Psalm 131.  A friend gave me a copy of John Michael Talbot’s album, Come to the Quiet, when I was a teenager, and I listened to that album until I’d memorized every song.  It was an enormous comfort to me, and I realized later that almost all of the songs were simply arrangements of a selection of Psalms.

As a person who was once prone to anxiety, I have sung Psalm 131 often.  Consequently, it is a passage of scripture I felt I fully understood.  Yet, this morning I gained new insight.  I suppose that is the way of all scripture; revelation comes degree by degree over a lifetime.

The Context of Psalm 131

David wrote Psalm 131 while enduring Saul’s persecution.  David knew he was anointed to be king; it was not hidden from him that he was destined to be a great man.  He could easily have given in to the temptation to take for himself what was promised; a person of any pride and ambition would be hard pressed not to do so.  Instead, David fully entrusted himself and his future to God.  Rather than rising up, he humbly bowed down in patient submission.

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” A weaned child no longer frets for the comfort and nourishment of the breast.  In fact, within a few weeks, she forgets what the breast was to her.  In the same way, we can fret and long for the world’s comfort– approval, position, money, an endless array of vices.  But God has called us to be weaned of these, and to trust him humbly and completely as little children at peace in the laps of their mothers and fathers.

Read Until Something Touches You

I used to go on personal retreats to an abbey several times a year.  An Irish nun named Sister Mary Tobit would meet and pray with me at the beginning of each retreat.  She would suggest several scripture readings and then say, “Read until something touches you.”  For Sister Tobit, God’s presence was the lone thing sought.  If you were touched by the first verse you read, then you stayed with that verse pondering it, resting in it, listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Any difficulty, anxiety, anguish, was to be released by “pressing it into God’s love”.

God deals with us gently.  Our highest work is to cultivate a childlike spirit, open, quiet, and attentive.

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