Psalm 131 - Limitation and Spiritual Maturity

Holding your infant daughter as she drifts off to sleep is a supernatural experience. 

There was a musical cadence to the way Zoe’s tiny chest would expand in rhythm to take in the miracle of breath and life. With her little hands and feet swaddled up, I would stare in awe at her peaceful countenance.

Sometimes, right in the middle of her sleep, she would break into a smile. What could she have possibly been dreaming of?

My favorite spiritual practice in those days was to get quiet enough to match the rhythm of my breath with hers, as she slept in my arms. It was hallowed sacred ground.  

This does not happen very much anymore. 

“Mine! Mine! Mine!” 

“No! No Daddy! No bath!” 

“No! No car seat! No!” 

[insert deep paternal sigh]

Hello terrible twos, two months early. My daughter is a fighter now. She asserts her will. She expresses her disdain. She is an ambitious little girl. She literally throws her body on the ground to inform us of her need of cookies or her favorite Australian children’s programming show on Hulu.

It is a battle these days to get her into a calm and quiet state…  

This Psalm paints for us a paradoxical image of spiritual maturity: a sleeping child. 

Most of us spend much of our mental and spiritual energies anxiously wanting to be in control, or in the know.

We are easily frustrated and grow impatient when life, career, and family don’t go as planned. And so, we take on the posture of spiritual toddlerhood. No! Mine! This needs to be different! This is not how things are supposed to be! 

But it is in embracing the gift of our limitation, that we learn to wait and hope. Through this Psalm, sung by a pilgrim Hebrew people in Babylonian captivity, the people of God reminded one another that what they needed to cultivate was not more control, but a quiet heart. Not more power, but a trust in God. 

When all your wailing and complaining finally run their course, may your limitations lead you to a contentment in the God of Hope.

Rev. Mike Whang is Lead Pastor of Oikon, a house church movement of Chapelwood United Methodist Church in the Houston area. His daughter Zoe is actually a really sweet toddler who watches The Wiggles in relative moderation. You can follow @mikewhang and @oikonhtx on Instagram!

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