Scripture is not set deep into my heart the way that I think it should be. Yet the years of reading the same text has caused resonances deep within me. The other morning, as I experienced yet another attack over my research – a deep and nagging fear that I had no hope of ever finishing this work – even as those thoughts which are with me every day of this endeavour entered my mind, so also a few jumbled words of Psalm 131 also came to me. Things too great and marvellous for me and weaned child were all that came. But they were enough. They reminded me of the truth.
1 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.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 131 ESV
Why do I fix my eyes on the things which are beyond my reach? Why must I live six months in advance, worrying about what I will want to have achieved by then and how it can all be done? Why is every day a battle against what is assumed will end in failure, if only because what has been planned will require super-human efforts to achieve it?
Why? he whispers to me. Because you are fixing your eyes on things which are not yours to worry about or control, occupying yourself with the responsibility for details which are mine alone, things too great and marvellous for you.
And something in me rails against this. I spend my life being in control. Or, at least, I wish I did.
Yet again and again, the Psalmist entreats us to wait on the Lord. Not worry. Not seek to manage. Not work extra hard in order to assure the outcome for which we hope. (OK, so that’s me told!)
To wait on the Lord. Just to wait. To quieten our hearts. Not to lift up our hearts or raise our eyes too high. Not to occupy ourselves with things too great and marvellous for us.
To wait. But not even to wait alone. Not to wait as one who has made even waiting a work of righteousness, of self-made strength. Rather to wait as a child. As a child with its mother. Soul calmed and quieted. Not worried about tomorrow. Not fighting to see those things which he has promised but which are, as yet, too great and marvellous for us to know.
And as I lived more fully into that day, I realised how many things are too great and marvellous for me. In a completely different context, someone was encouraging me to fight for my rights. For a while, they were pulling me along with them. It seemed to me that I needed those rights in order to fight for the good of that context, a context to which I’m utterly committed. But then Psalm 131 echoed in my mind again. Let me not lift my heart up or raise my eyes too high. What he wants to give me, he will give me. If I am to advocate for the good of others, then even that power, that anointing will come from him. And, as for me, I need not concern myself with those things I do not yet have. Not even those things which, if I had them, I would use to his glory and for the love of his people.
Instead, I am to calm and quieten my soul like a weaned child with its mother.
How much easier to go through life this way. As Israel is enjoined, to hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever more rather than trying to make things turn out the way we think they should. How beautiful to use this song as a morning prayer, to apply it as I did again the next morning to those parts of life which feel out of control to me. Perhaps even to learn it word for word so that next time it can resonate at the very deepest parts of me.
Which portions of Scripture have you set into your heart for days such as these? What would it mean for the Scriptures to be the soundtrack to our lives?