I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother. Psalm 131:1b-2a
There is an old Christian folk song that expresses well the peace that comes to those who live in the experience of faith. The words are, “I know not what my future holds. I have no way of knowing. But I know the One who holds my future, and I have no fear of where I’m going.” Such a disposition of trust, I believe, is one of the more likely fruits of contemplative prayer as people learn to exchange the spirit of fear for that of faith.
Many Christians do not enjoy the benefits of a life of faith. Though they believe in God, they do not necessarily live in the experience of faith that should accompany that belief. They may, for instance, accept the theology that God is with them, and yet, for the most part, they walk alone in their day. They may believe that Christ forgives their sins and yet they continue to suffer from guilt and shame. They believe the Scriptures that teach us how God provides for us and yet they are fearful for their security. They believe their future is in God’s hands, and yet they fret because they are unable to discern that future for themselves.
For all who ail from such lack of faith, Psalm 131 offers an effective prescription for change. It is an invitation to leave behind the anxieties of faithless belief, and to embrace the maturity of trust whereby we rest more securely in God’s good care. The Psalm contrasts the turmoil of an overly reasoned life with that of quiet faith. It encourages us to let go of the adult concerns of the one in favour of the child-like trust of the other. David’ sentiment is of one who says to himself, “I have had enough of worrying about my life’s direction. I am tired of dealing with the unknowability of matters too great for me. I am ready for plan B.”
If you too are tired of trying to work out the Rubik’s cube of your life, David offers another approach. Rather than obsess over that which, at best, can only be speculated, he has instead learned to quiet his heart and to trust the unknowable aspects of his life to God. Because he has faith that the unknowns are not unknown to God, he can rest more securely in the God-ordained mystery of his blind spots. With the folk singer he too can sing, “I know the One who holds my future, and I have no fear of where I’m going.” This, as David suggests, is the trusting disposition of a weaned child.
The image of a weaned child represents a healthy detachment from the type of clinging that often keeps our relationship with God at an infant stage. A weaned child is one who is free of the primal fears of babyhood. It no longer suffers the separation anxiety common to toddlers who see their mothers solely in terms of security and provision. The child who is weaned is secure enough in his mother’s care to not be anxious about losing her care. This more confident disposition of faith also represents a greater freedom for the mother as it gives her permission to be who she is, independent of the child’s immediate sense of need. The weaned child allows the mother to love the child, in her own way.
Love gives freedom to the other person to be who they are, and it is a mark of mature spirituality when we trust God to love us according to God’s own freedom. In confident faith we allow God to hold our future without the distrust implied by our anxieties over what we can’t see. Weaned from the imperatives of our need-based relationship, we are now more able to live in the freedom that faith promises to those who trust their lives to God’s care. As the song suggests, the more confident we are that the Lord holds our future, the less concerned we need be of where we are going.
When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who know my way.