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;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.(Psalm 131)
As I was spending time reading Scripture this morning, Psalm 131 seemed to jump off right the page and into my heart. I don't have time to share all that God has been doing in my life over the last few years, however I can say that He has been stretching me in ways that I haven't particularly cared for! This has resulted in more sleepless nights than I can count, less hair on my already thinning brow, and almost entirely white facial hair!
Some of my fondest memories are of my infant son sprawled belly down on my chest fast asleep as I lay on the couch. Or that of seeing him sleeping contentedly, tummy full, in my wife's loving embrace. This is the picture the psalmist gives us what a "calmed and quieted" soul looks like. I get that when I reflect on my son or see another sleeping infant in their mothers arms. Safe, warm, fed!
I can't tell how much I have longed for a "calmed and quieted soul" rather than a racing mind, an agitated spirit, and an endless pursuit of what externally looks so spiritual. Sadly, I became so intense and focused that my son and wife often lived in a state of apprehension, sensing this restlessness as anger toward them!
It would be easy for me to blame this stress on people and organizations, but God has graciously been showing me a deadly cancer that has been slowly eating away at my soul. It hasn't been until recently that I have come to see that most of my stress and restlessness has been caused by a sick narcissism that has slowly been spreading in my heart.
There is no way that I can honestly proclaim that "my heart is not proud" (NIV). In fact it is so full of pride or "lifted up" that my mind is constantly occupied "with things too great and too marvelous for me." I want people to know my name. I want to be asked to speak at national conferences. I want to be an "expert." Doesn't anyone know how much I have to offer?
Fellow pastors and leaders, you know exactly what I am talking about. You get it, because you struggle with the same cancer. None of us wants to die in obscurity and we are all desperately blogging and tweeting ourselves into a restless frenzy, desperately hoping someone will notice us! And we are all tired, discouraged and living in juxtaposition to the Gospel we are all so intensely trying to communicate!
Imagine with me seeing ourselves as preachers and leaders who truly live with a "calmed and quieted soul." Can you imagine the impact that would have on our communication of the Gospel! Wow, we would actually be living out what we preach! Imagine that! But to get to the "calmed and quieted soul" we must get past the "my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself for me" (v.1), to a deep and humble resting in the Gospel, a "hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore" (v.3).
This is a Blog and not a sermon, so let me try and bring this to a close. Will you stop and take a long hard look at your life and ministry? Is there a hidden narcissism in what drives you? If so, will you make it goal in your life to daily repent of that sin and passionately chase after the God of all Grace, seeking to love Him with all that you are? Will you strive to love your neighbor - your congregation that sits right in front of you each week - more than chasing after fame "eyes raised too high" and occupying yourself "with things too great and too marvelous?" Will you ask the LORD to graciously "Restore the joy of your salvation, and uphold [you]with a willing spirit" (Psalm 51:12) As that deep Gospel transformation takes place, "Then [you ]will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You" (51:13). And we all want that!
You see it is only as we live in the truth of the Gospel that we can truly experience the weaned child like experience of contentment and rest. The LORD of all creation promises it for those who look for it in Him. And that is great news!
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ps 51:12–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.ll end in a restless ministry
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ps 131:1–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.