Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Like a Weaned Child

I have fond memories of breastfeeding my babies, and now as a grandmother, I enjoy watching young mothers with their children. If I were a preacher, I’d craft a sermon about the family imagery in this bible verse:

But I have calmed and quieted myself.
I am like a weaned child with its mother.
Like a weaned child, I am content.  

Psalm 131

As a preacher, I would connect this psalm’s Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) example of faith to Jesus’ teaching about spiritual health. Christ told his disciples to respect children and to see them as models for the spiritual life. 

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18 & 19

From the pulpit, I would then acknowledge that there are many opinions on the correct English translation of our verse in Psalm 131, as well as much commentary on exactly what it means. Referring to the New Testament (Christian Scriptures) verses, I would say that the strange term, “kingdom of heaven”, implies a state where life is lived the way its Creator designed it to be lived, under the rule of love, peace and merciful justice. 

With that said, I would offer the following meditation on the psalm's image of an older child leaning on its mother.

It seems that the more we mature as followers of Jesus, the less we will be like newborn babies. Newborns are utterly cherished by their moms and dads, as we all are by our divine parent. And yet, both they and we start out being infantile in our egoism, 
blind to options and choices,
incapable of taking action,
at the mercy of others and of life’s circumstances,
spending the day either asleep, passively observing, or pitifully screaming until our immediate need is satisfied.

Christian belief, like atheism, rejects the idea that we are sucklings who must invent a mythical Super-Daddy/Mommy to get us though life. But Christianity is based on the good news that we are not alone in the universe, left to our own best devices for living life with meaning. 

Christianity teaches that God prioritizes relationship. The bible records many stories of a working partnership between ordinary people and the Ultimate Mystery we call God, a partnership that changes human life for the better. Such personal stories have continued throughout history. 

Healthy relationships, even between God and humans, do not foster infantilism. The compelling verse in Psalm 131 implies that as we grow in faith we become not like breast-fed babies, but like a weaned child, 
independent enough to explore life,
tasting different kinds of food, 
testing our muscles in risky adventures, 
doing our assigned chores even when we don’t feel like it,
braving encounters with strangers,
learning to say we’re sorry and learning to forgive,
strong enough to stand on our own two feet, to fall and still get up again, 
waving goodbye when we’re left at school, knowing Love will be waiting for us at the end of the day,
aware that all good that we see, and all good that we are, is given by God, our parent, without whom we wouldn’t exist at all. 

Unlike the maturity of independence from human parents, spiritual maturity includes depending on an eternal God (Elohim, Allah) beyond our understanding. No matter how “big” we get, when life knocks us into fear or despair, we can find quietness and rest in the One who birthed us. 
“Like a weaned child, I am content.”