Do you ever read a verse in the Bible that you know you've read a million times (right...like maybe twenty times, since none of us have read His Word a full million) and you get this mental image in your head and suddenly realize that's not what the verse says at all?
It happened to me again this week. This time, in Psalms 131:2.
My soul is content as a weaned child is content in its mother's arms.
If you're like me, when you read this verse, you picture a young baby nestled in its mother's breast and for some reason, in my head, this image has the implied relationship of nursing. That the child would be eating or having just eaten and now resting against its mother in that contented satisfaction, having received from her its nutrition. She, having given everything she can to the child, has a smile on her face, too.
It's a nice image, but it is not what this verse says. This verse says content as a weaned child in its mother's arms. A child that has not nursed from the breast, has not taken the mother's milk, but rests against her body anyway in contented satisfaction. And she, having given only open arms to the child, has a smile on her face, too.
This is kind of the relationship we have with God, too, isn't it? Most of us are content to be in His arms, as long as we're suckling. As long as He's giving and we're taking and there's a blessed exchange between the two of us (with Him blessing us and us taking it), we of course are content to rest in His arms. Both of us have a smile on our faces.
Of course we will stay in His arms when He is our life, when our very nutrition and the source of our strength comes from Him. When He's giving us all He has to give to us, and we are growing and satisfied because of it. Of course in those times, we are content in His arms.
The spiritual life is more than this satisfaction of suckling, though, as David points out in this psalm. This is a psalm of worship, and more than once, David mentions the calm and the peace in his soul as he contemplates and worships the Lord. To the psalmist, the Lord is beyond his life; the Lord is his love.
Doesn't that change things? Doesn't it have to?
God calls us not to be suckling at His breast forever, not to be content in His arms only when He is our nourishment, when He is our strength, when He is our life. Only when He is giving us something. He calls us to be content in His arms when He is only our love. When, like a weaned child whose mother offers nothing but a place to sit, we are able to sit with Him and know what that love is. We are able to put our ear on His chest and hear His heartbeat, held strong and firm by His arms around us and listening to the rhythm of the world with not a care but the content satisfaction of resting in His love.
Realizing how many times I'd pictured that wrong, then seeing it the way that David penned it, has changed my idea of what it means to be content in God. That I don't always have to be nursing, not always feeding, not always getting something in return for being in God's presence. Most of the time, the gift is the presence itself. It is the safe place to be, a lap to climb up into, arms to hold me tight, and the shared heartbeat of love that beats between us, Lord and daughter.
Neither He nor I can stop from smiling.