Song of Quiet Trust: a Midlife Meditation

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.[a]

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time on and forevermore.

This is Psalm 131. It is titled in my Bible as A Song of Ascents.

Ascents.

These past two weeks I have spent from 3 to 5 hours most evenings or early mornings sitting beside a dear sister-friend who was making her last great ascent. That final walk. The ultimate journey. The loving return.

Each breath of hers was precious and on that last night before she died God helped me to realize that in the end, really, that is all we have…our breath…our current breath. We are not promised our next breath. We already have kissed the last breath goodbye. We cannot cling to it, as we cannot hold onto the past.

And even that breath is a gift. A gift of total gratuitously glorious love from a divine Lover who is supporting us in his arms even as we breath.

On that last ascent, it will not matter what we have created or achieved or known or acquired. The fact that I have written a book, or started a company, or sold an astounding number of widgets, or even loved will not be mine as a monument to me..

I will have only this breath that is a gift to me right now at this moment.

Only this breath.

It is freeing, isn’t it?

What is important to you right now? What worries or angers or burdens you? What frightens you? What dreams are you clinging to?

Listen again to this psalm 131 as it breathes through your soul…

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.[a]

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time on and forevermore.

A child on its mother’s lap has no past built up to which it looks with pride or holds onto as a burden. Jesus called us to be these little children who breathe our past into the heart of God and wait with quiet heart for the future to unfold from his hands. As we cannot hold onto our breath, we actually cannot hold onto our past. It IS gone, and nothing can bring it back. If it seems to be present, it is because we keep it so in our mind to the detriment of our heart. The thought-memories that reiterate, return to, recreate what has hurt us in earlier moments and years end up destroying our joy and peace of heart. They are processed through filters created over years and years of judgments and assumptions, suffering and injustice, desires and disappointment, to name just a few of the factors that determine the way we sift through the information we receive through our sense perceptions. Of course, it certainly isn’t as simple as that because we know that our bodies themselves store past trauma. However, when we are mentally trapped in what has happened in the past, particularly when we don’t realize the truth of how it imprisons us, the whole of us can’t heal.

If a child is quietly at peace with its mother, curiously looking around and trying to figure out what others are doing will only lead to its squirming to break free from its mother’s care or fearfully hiding behind its mother’s protective presence. As adults, when we take our eyes off God and look around at what is happening around us and to us, trying to figure it out on our own reasoning powers, we end up breaking free of the nourishing and creative reality of the One who is our ultimate Refuge. We end up in aggressivity, anxiety, and bitterness.

We can learn from this image presented to us in the Psalm to “see,” instead, with the eye of the heart, to perceive with the faculty of the heart. It is a noetic stance before reality. Instead of attempting to understand what is presenting itself to us through reason alone, it is the “faculty of the heart that is able to comprehend natural and spiritual realities through direct experience” (“Pray Thou Thyself in Me,” Molly Calliger, page 3). The eye of the heart is cleansed through the prayer of the heart, the “practice of interior silence and continual prayer.”

“Hesychia: stillness, quiet, tranquility. This is the central consideration in the prayer of the desert Fathers… on a deeper level it is not merely separation from noise and speaking with other people, but the possession of interior quiet and peace” (Ward 1975, p. xvi.).

Let me end with the Morning Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, a prayer that represents the adult living as a child interior quiet and peace:

O Lord,
grant that I may meet the coming day in peace.
Help me in all things
to rely upon Thy Holy Will.
In every hour of the day,
reveal Thy will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me
throughout the day with peace of soul,
and with the firm conviction that Thy will governs all.
In all my deeds and words,
guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget
that all are sent by Thee.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely,
without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me the strength to bear the fatigue
of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will.
Teach me to pray.
Pray Thou Thyself in me.
Amen. (“Pray Thou Thyself in Me,” Molly Calliger, page 1).

To be continued

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