Rev. Betsy Scheuerman
Scripture: Psalm 131 (NRSV)
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.
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.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time on and forevermore.
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.
I’ve been feeling anxious. Maybe you know how it is. You are aware of a sea of needs: family issues, whether parents or children or partner; the writing group you skipped, the paperwork you haven’t completed, filing undone, taxes that need work, a bill you forgot to pay on time. There are emails unanswered, letters unwritten, poems not started. Lectures or workshops unattended, books unread. Worries about finances—your own, your children’s, your congregation’s. Medical procedures unscheduled. Exercise regimens neglected. Friends unvisited. And then—as if all those concerns weren’t enough!—problems in state, country, world. Egypt and North Africa in upheaval, you hope for good; social causes you support; crusades to be waged for the environment, for women’s rights, for union workers, for schooling, for health care, for marriage equality, for affordable housing and homes for the homeless, for veterans, for immigrants (with or without documents), for G/L/B/T folks (especially in Uganda); and then, as if all that weren’t enough, the earthquake in New Zealand, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflict elsewhere.
Guilt over what I could or should be doing, and am not.
Then—through one of those serendipitous gifts of the universe, or Grace, or God-- I come across this Psalm that I’ve never before encountered.
O LOVE, 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.
I don’t have to do everything, take on everything. Sometimes, I do not have to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills.” Sometimes I don’t need to be trying to overcome Pharaoh, or leading people to the Promised Land. Sometimes, I can stop searching for Zion.
Sometimes we need to be reminded: we don’t have to take on “things too great”—at least, not all the time. Sometimes, it is enough to attend to our soul, treat it tenderly, as a child needing soothing. Not with food or a breast, but with gentle care, soft hands, a voice murmering a lullaby. Hush. Sshh. All will be well. You are precious, you are loved. What a strange yet tender image the Psalmist has offered: the Psalmist as mother, soul like the weaned child that is with me.
I imagine a child frightened by that separation coming about from growing older and wiser. Despite the pain of that separation, despite the awareness that total merger into oneness is not longer right or even possible for the child grown beyond infancy, the maternal Presence still comforts. Hush. Sshh. You are precious. You are loved.All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.*
The final verse of the Psalm I translate this way: O People, put your hope in LOVE, from now on and forever.
And thanks to the Psalmist, I, too, have calmed and quieted my soul.
Gentle, Loving God, hold me in Your arms. Soothe me. Remind me to attend to my soul with the same tenderness. O God, let my hope and my strength be in LOVE. Amen.
*words of Julian of Norwich