Psalm 131 - I have calmed and quieted my soul
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1) O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
8th Sunday after Epiphany, Year A
Sunday between May 24 and 28, Year A
One immediately thinks of trauma. Something has happened to disturb and disquiet this soul.
We are not talking about an infant who cries naturally when they are hungry or suffering the daily ups and downs of a life that is more complicated than their comprehension.
This is the voice of an adult, who finds comfort by limiting what they see, by retreating, becoming "like a child." But they are not curled into a fetal position, they are not seeking a life only of eating and sleeping. A weaned child is one who is growing beyond infancy, and is growing in their ability to make sense of the world.
This happens after suffering trauma. The world, and one's sense of safety, has been broken by the traumatic event(s).
The trauma can continue, with intrusive thoughts, replaying or reliving the terrible event(s). One might be easily startled, or be hyper-vigilant, ever-alert to guard against another wounding. One can be consumed with grief, or guilt, or just plain fear. And deep in our brain and being is he thought, the awareness, the conviction that what happened is just plain wrong. It should not have happened. And yet it did. Reality betrayed us.
Thankfully, we are made to heal. We are fragile enough to be hurt, maimed. And we are also resilient enough and strong enough to re-make ourselves, body, mind, and spirit. The psalmist has found an ability to regain some self-regulation. "I have calmed and quieted my soul..."
Rejoice that this voice is testimony from the road to wholeness.
In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, a child's greatest need is to reestablish a sense of safety and security. Adults are not that different. We want to trust that the world will not again inflict such harm upon us.
That ability to heal, and even to grow, is aided by an environment, particularly a caring other, which helps us find solid ground.
The soul here is presented as a growing, aware child, safe in the presence of its mother. That's a metaphor, or course, for this psalm's hope is in the Lord, mother of Israel, whose love and protection is secure, in the face of the present trouble, and forevermore.
Rod Waddington, Mother and Child, Ethiopia, 2018. Used under (CC BY 2.0).
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.