Cultivating Contentment…

“…I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” (Psalm 131:2 NIV)

The image this verse creates is a striking one: a young child sitting quietly and contentedly on her mother’s lap, leaning against her breast.  Not a screaming, panic-stricken infant, but instead a slightly older child who has learned basic trust.  Her experience has been that whatever comes, she’ll be safe and whatever she needs will somehow be provided for her.  She’s not anxious or fearful; she’s not restless and demanding. She’s simply learned through experience that she’ll be taken care of, no matter what and so she’s able to rest. 

The Psalmist – David, perhaps – begins by saying, “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…”.  At first glance, these statements seem to imply a kind of wilful avoidance of thinking about important things.  That’s not actually what humility is, of course.  Instead, humility is the accurate view of who we are in God’s eyes: flawed, limited, at times enormously foolish, yet beloved, redeemed children of our Heavenly Father. So what does pride have to do with this picture of the contented child described just a verse later?

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 18:3: “… unless…you become like a little child, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven.”  If you check, his statement comes after the disciples approach him and ask, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”. They’re looking for status and position, and Jesus responds with the startling example of a little child. Sounds a bit like the Psalmist’s image in the verse above.

Jesus is presenting the core truth of the Gospel: all is grace; all is gift. All our human efforts to fix what’s clearly wrong with us are in vain unless we’re living in a grace-filled partnership with our Creator, who is infinitely wiser than we are. We are to learn (or perhaps, rediscover) basic trust in our Savior – in his work. Relinquishing our self improvement projects, and instead stilling ourselves and quietly, attentively, and obediently responding to his initiative is ‘way more appropriate. It’s the position of a little child, who knows she’s needy and vulnerable.

Jesus tells us clearly that he will always be with us, and never leave us or forsake us. Do we truly trust the Word who can never lie? Have we learned through experience that we will always be taken of, no matter what? Are we growing in our ability to relax and receive from our good God? Or are we, like the disciples at this point in their walk with Jesus, still fearful that we might be missing out on something? Despite walking with Jesus day by day and listening to him and seeing the miracles, the disciples are still trying to secure something from the world around them that they think will make them happy and fulfilled. Is that what we’re like? Looking for something “more” apart from what God in his goodness is allowing in our circumstances?

This image of the quietly contented child in the arms of her mother is a challenging one for me. It’s an icon of trust, one which I aspire to, though often fail to remain in. I pray daily for the grace to rest – and remain – in that amazing, generous Love who will withhold nothing good from me.

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