“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” —Psalm 131:1-2
When I was 16 I spent three weeks on a Christian canoe trip in the northernmost part of Minnesota. Battling constant mosquitos (the other state bird, goes the joke), hoisting a 70 pound Alumacraft canoe on my sunburnt shoulders, and not showering for over 20 days were among the many challenges; discovering the tiniest blueberries along the rocky shore, hearing mournful loon cries, and journaling each morning were among the many joys. Looking back now, my age now doubled, I marvel at the sheer time I spent away from modern life and its responsibilities.
Being a Christian wilderness trip, our instructors made sure we had a daily dose of Jesus along with our morning oatmeal. They chose Psalm 131 as our theme scripture, which we read together many times by the smoky campfire. “I have calmed and quieted myself,” was an easy verse for me to ponder as I sat at the water’s edge, watching the morning sun burn off mist on the lake. The next part: “I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content,” was more confusing. I was a teenager who didn’t know any nursing mothers; I had no younger siblings or cousins to observe. What was a weaned child like? How is God like a mother, one who no longer offers her breast?
This verse resurfaced for me recently when I was nursing my one-year old to sleep for his afternoon nap, his fingers reaching up to gently stroke my cheek. I could have stopped nursing him ages ago —he doesn’t need breastmilk to have a healthy diet—but I enjoy the time of connecting with my baby who is becoming more independent with each passing day. My son enjoys it too; he loudly cries for “milkies time!” when he needs extra comfort. Together we snuggle up, staring into each other’s eyes, and I marvel at how my body continues to provide food for this baby it grew and birthed.
Even so, the time is coming when our nursing times will dwindle. Weaning is inevitable. And, while I will mourn the end of this special connection, I will also feel relief. Breastfeeding can be painful, exhausting, annoying. Weaning my son will mean more personal freedom; it will mean I can leave him for several days if needed. It will mean I can wish him good morning without yanking up my shirt.
I wonder at how God as described in Psalm 131 must feel, her weaned child at her side. Does she feel relief that her baby no longer claws at her breast, demanding the most basic of nourishment? Does she grieve at how her baby is now a child, strong enough to eat solid food without any supplementation?
My guess is that God feels peace knowing her child has a strong enough attachment to contently sit by her side, no longer needing breastmilk. Her child sits quietly, trusting that the world is—on the whole—a safe place and that he or she is deeply loved. Infancy is over; the child only needs her mother’s presence.
When I was 16 and paddling into strong winds on windy lakes, I prayed for God’s strength and could literally feel new energy entering my muscles, powering my strokes. I was “on fire” for Jesus; God’s love was as real to me as the canoe paddle in my hand. These days, I cycle through doubt and cynicism, only to find myself crying during hymns in church. I am not a contented child, calm and quiet in the company of her mother. I yearn to understand all that I cannot understand.
I not the model child, but I know God is still here, sitting nearby. I imagine she is watching me fondly, offering her peace if only I will still my mind.