Contented calm is not my natural status quo. I fret. I worry. I fuss. I fume. I meddle. I creep my fingers into the very middle of things and discreetly (or not) try to move the players and control the outcomes. That kind of life, as some of you may know, is an exhausting killer of joy, love, peace, relationships, trust, grace, and hope. Life itself becomes both a dead and deadly thing.
I do not want to live a dead and deadly life, or be the exhausted killer of all good things. So contented calm is one of my deepest desires, and has been for many years. Pursuing it is a long and painful process requiring penitent prayer, sacrificial surrender, and a willingness to embrace humility as one of the highest virtues of life in Christ. Repentance, sacrifice, surrender, and humility are as entirely unnatural for me as contented calm.
In other words: this process has high potential for total failure and minimal possibility for significant life-change. Except for the fact that I follow a powerful, forgiving, and transforming Savior. Otherwise, contented calm would be the least likely of fairy-tale endings for my life (and “they all – every single one of them – lived contentedly calm” is a much better ending than “they all – meaning the prince and princess – lived happily ever after).
I want to be a Psalm 131 child (so much more than I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman, I confess). I want the Psalmist’s words to be a true description of me:
LORD, my heart is not proud (I do not presume that its motives are pure – I’ve dug down deep and seen the rot);
My eyes are not haughty (I know that I am not better or higher than other people – though I’ve often believed and behaved otherwise).
[Note to self: a proud heart and haughty eyes are not just a “thing” to be worked on; cf. Proverbs 21:4.]
I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp (in other words, I don’t play God because, Lord knows, every time I switch into control mode and try to orchestrate things to my own liking, it turns out badly. FOR EVERYONE. EVERYTIME.)
INSTEAD (an unexpectedly profound lexical marker of transformation)
I have calmed and quieted myself (not by my own power, to be sure, but by my own willingness to be shaped and molded and humbled by the Almighty God and Loving Father),
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk (nothing against nursing-on-demand, something of which I’m a big fan – but a weaned child has moved beyond the need for immediate gratification and comfort).
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
[Note to self: we never outgrow being a weaned child, even when we have weaned children of our own. Weird.]
O Israel (and you too, Crystal)
put your hope in the LORD (not in money, success, fame, appearance, or really smart dead British authors)
now (this very day, this very moment)
and always (you know…ALL THE TIME).
Amen. And amen. Oh dear God – please let this be true of me.
***What are the traits of a content and discontent child – of any age – that can help you understand the deep truth of what the Psalmist is saying? For example: content children are trusting, know how to share, and enjoy discovering new things. Discontent children quickly become angry, are demanding, and often withdraw. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these lists – add your own words or phrases in the comments.