Reading this morning from Psalm 131:
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.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. (Psalm 131:1-2)
In this life of becoming like Jesus - the transforming world of discipleship - there's a tendency for us (translated me) to get ahead of myself. To begin looking at the possibilities and the future early and often. I think this is a symptom of the culture I was born into.
Next big thing. Next big hurdle. What's next?
The real danger here is that we miss what's happening now. Grace and goodness are exploding right in front of us and we are glancing ever so lightly over it all to see into a day that will come instead of sitting in the day that is already.
To be sure, there's nothing wrong with planning. With hoping. Hope is the pillar of our life in Christ, the "anticipation of the good" as Dallas Willard has said, but there is also hope for the present. Hope that comes in what is here and now, right in front of us.
Psalm 131 offers two correctives to us in this discussion:
1. When we lift up our eyes above where we are, we fall prey to oversight.
When I talk to people who are dealing with anxiety, stress, and disordered lives it is almost a given that they have a lack of contentment in their every day existence. I'm not talking about wanting destructive, toxic circumstances to shift - I'm talking about finding goodness and the idea of "enough" in the simplicity of every day. What do I really need? What do I really require to complete this day in joy with Christ?
When we lift up our eyes to new, better, faster, shinier we begin to walk without seeing the ground in front of us and the steps that would eventually take us to our destination (no matter how destructive it might be) never fall into place and so we get disappointed. Jaded.
Then mysteriously we blame God. Who, I believe, stands starkly in the now and points us toward contentment.
2. When we are calmed and quieted, we can finally see reality.
The Psalmist says that instead of raising his eyes and heart above to things that are well beyond him, he has calmed and quieted his soul. What in the world does that mean?
It means he has ceased the spinning plates.
He has turned the volume down on anxiety and excessive busyness.
He has learned the goodness of silence, solitude, and slowing down.
The metaphor here is a little hard to get to, but basically the "weaned child" picture is one of a baby who has been moved away from breast milk and the constant demand to be fed and has now become quiet and trusting. The trust comes from knowing that their needs in that day have been taken care of. Nothing that is necessary for today to give us life and health in Christ is going to be denied. Quieted. Calmed. Then we see it. Reality. The reality of what we actually need and how sufficient God is to give it to us.
The reality of how living our lives as Jesus would live them if He were us would bring our dreams of healing, forgiveness and joy into being.
By all means, plan and think on the future - hope for heaven and the things that are to come and do it with all joy.
However, in the midst of our world we need to be reminded to stop and be present and lose our anxiety about the future. Our eyes, focused on now, can bring peace to our souls and contentment that transforms us through the goodness of Christ.