Like a Weaned Child {The Grove: Content}

I don’t remember the specifics. I can’t recall the sort of day that was in it, the lead up or the cool down. All I have are these little memories, a moment of perfect peace.

A walk through the park.

Sitting by the sea, watching the dog dodge kids and waves.

In the city with my husband, crossing alleys and streets.

And at least once in a loud and dirty car, driving across the country.

I remember the feeling—putting a name to it, making sure I said it aloud (for testimonial evidence in future marital squabbles):

Contentment.

Sometimes I’m surprised I can’t actually remember the details. I’m sure our life was swirling in chaos and ambiguity, as it usually does. I know for a fact we’ve never reached any sort of perfection: not in marriage, not in ministry, and certainly not in childrearing. And I confess it doesn’t happen as much as it should. I tend not to pay careful attention, to be distracted by any number of things past, present or future.

We should’ve done that earlier, I’ll nag. I forgot to send school money, I’ll suddenly remember. Why is everyone buying houses when we’re just grasping at straws just to hold onto ours, I’ll wonder. When will this [fill-in-the-blank-big-ministry-dream-and-potential-mess] get off the ground, we’ll fret. The big things (and the little) keep me upended, restless, discontent.

It’s habitual.

It’s genetic.

And it’s contagious.

Discontent starts with a seed of doubt, blossoms into fear, and wraps vines of distrust around everyone it touches. And more often than not, it starts with me.

Never mind being content in all things, can’t I settle for contentment in some things? Any old thing? Even just one thing?

There’s a song I used to sing, back in the support raising phases, before (and then after) we moved abroad, when I let music do the praying for me. It was a Psalm I didn’t fully understand until I weaned my own babies and felt their fulfilled bellies lie quietly next to mine. They had something I was only beginning to grasp, a concept I still struggle with, a spirit I still long for:

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.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
  I am like a weaned child with its mother;
  like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:1-2)

I am haughty and proud and covetous and wild. I tend to concern myself with matters too big and wonderful and scary and great – much too great – for me to handle on my own.

But then a greater gift of grace is given me, too. It’s the only way I know how to go on, the only way I know how to find – and hold on to – those little moments. Just one thing:

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore,” (Psalm 131:3).

That’s the only specific that matters.

What’s your one thing? Your song, your Psalm, your prayer for contentment? 

~~~

We invite you to share in The Grove. You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

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11 Comments

  1. Elizabeth October 26, 2018

    So I have definitely chaffed against this psalm over the years. I always think about how much I loved nursing my little babies and how happy and satisfied they were after a nursing session, and I loved loved loved that experience, and I could not think how that could be bad. I loved the way they needed me, the way I filled their little bellies.

    But this psalm isn’t from the perspective of the parent happy to nourish the child, it’s from the child saying they can calm and quiet themselves. Yet even that I have difficulty with. I am not good at calming and quieting myself! I have been dealing with anxiety off and on for the last 18 months, and though off and on, I would say it’s getting progressively worse. I am not good at handling it, and because it’s sporadic (ahem, periodic), when it’s over for a while I tend not to concern myself with it. I lived without constant anxiety for about 7 years, which is great, but it’s back now with a vengeance and I am not good at calming or quieting myself anymore. This month kind of felt like rock bottom so I am working on getting some better practices in place and seeking to understand what’s going on on the inside.

    Anyway, whether from the perspective of the parent or the perspective of the child, I have to admit I am not at peace with this psalm!!

    1. Karen October 26, 2018

      I love your perspective, Elizabeth! I, too, struggle with an anxiety/panic disorder (gah, I hate the word disorder!) and also chafe against this and other Psalms. I think what flipped this for me (apart from weaning my babies, which like you, I found incredibly difficult and bittersweet!) was reading A Long Obedience by Eugene Peterson and also listening to that song from Waterdeep (from KC!). So now, even though maybe it doesn’t come easily, it’s a meditation and a hope I long for. But I’m right there with you! And praying of your spirit and mind and heart to find the peace it needs and deserves. xo

  2. Maggie October 26, 2018

    My Psalm of contentment is Psalm 84. It meant a lot to me as a single mom raising two littles. I pondered how the sparrows had a place to lay her young, even on God’s altars. That right there gave me peace in a difficult situation.

    1. Karen Huber October 26, 2018

      I love this, Maggie! I was raised by a single mother, so I salute you and your precious kiddos! xo

  3. Paulette October 26, 2018

    Karen, I love how you paint contentment as the little memories and moments of perfect peace on the canvas of whatever chaos and ambiguity might be overshadowing our lives. It’s so tempting to believe we can’t be content until those big things are resolved. Such a lie. By God’s grace we can be content in Him alone, no matter what our circumstances, and that frees us to delight in the little joys and blessings He gives us each day.

    For years, Psalm 5:11 has been a go-to Scripture that challenges my heart to contentment and praise instead of complaining and despair. “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.”

    I linked up with a blog post from last year on the subject of contentment, despite writing another post about what God has been doing in my heart regarding contentment just this month. Turns out that this story is way too real and transparent and messy to share on my blog, and some friends might take it the wrong way. But I would love to share with my Velvet Ashes sisters, knowing that this is a community that “gets it”, in hopes that the Lord may use my experience to encourage someone struggling with similar feelings. Is it okay to post a super-long contentment-story comment here?

    1. Karen Huber October 26, 2018

      Hi Paulette – thank you so much for linking up in the Grove! I think it’s so good to look back and see how and where we found peace and contentment within those often messy times. And yes, do feel free to post extended thoughts here. Our hope is that this is a safe and nourishing place for you and others.

  4. Paulette Cross October 26, 2018

    THE FATHER WHO DOESN’T GIVE ME STONES…EVEN WHEN I’M DUMB ENOUGH TO ASK FOR THEM

    “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matthew 7:9-11

    Sometimes, like a spiritually mature adult, I pray for God to give me what is best, truly desiring His will above mine in the matter.

    Other times, like a spiritually immature child, I pray for God to give me what I want, not even asking what His will is, because I know what I want and need, so obviously that is best. Yikes. These words on the screen display the sinfulness of my heart in a horrifying way, but we who want to walk in the light can’t sugarcoat the truth.

    This month is a case in point.

    I really, really, really wanted to be a bridesmaid in my Brasilian sister’s wedding. It didn’t seem very likely, because common sense says that if she were going to ask me, she would have done so during one of our phone conversations.

    However, since the cultural norm here is giving out wedding invitations in person rather than mailing them, I thought perhaps asking someone to be a bridesmaid is only done in person. So, I came home still hoping, with plenty of money saved up to buy a new dress and anything else needed for the bridesmaid role. But all eight of my sister’s bridesmaids and all eight of her groomsmen had already been chosen and confirmed, leaving me to wonder why I wasn’t included.

    Did my sister think I wouldn’t be willing to wear makeup and spend money on a beauty parlor hairdo?

    Did she think that I wouldn’t have money to buy an expensive present, and was trying to be considerate by sparing me this cultural pressure?

    Is it because I don’t have a husband or boyfriend and there wasn’t an “extra” guy she could ask to be a groomsman and walk in with me?

    Did she figure I might get eaten by a snake or jaguar on my way out of the jungle and never even make it to her wedding?

    Is there a logical, simple cultural explanation for not asking me that I just don’t know?

    Well, despite the busy pre-wedding hustle and bustle, those still-unanswered questions have managed to roll around in my brain and heart for the last three weeks.

    While mostly resigned to the fact I wouldn’t be a bridesmaid, I still prayed that somehow I could be, not realizing that this, in effect, was a request for a stone (but such a pretty stone!) that I thought I needed. Yet all along, our loving Heavenly Father who is full of compassion, was planning to give me bread.

    I can imagine Him whispering gently, “You might be asking for the prettiest stone in the world, my child, but you can’t eat stones. I know this is not what you want right now, but since bread is the only thing that will truly satisfy and nourish you, I’m going to give you bread.”

    So as the fragrance of baking bread filled the kitchen of a busy week, did I sniff the air expectantly, thanking God for the delicious meal He planned? With eyes of faith, did I realize the bread I could not yet see would be far better than the stone I’d been gazing at with longing eyes and hungry belly?

    No.

    At least I had been giving myself an almost-convincing spiritual “pep talk”, reminding myself to look on the bright side and be thankful for all the blessings of the week, but deep down I was still pretty disappointed.

    The night before the wedding found me on the sofa downstairs, which, as my brother said, is super comfortable. I opted to sleep there to let my sister finish packing for her honeymoon, and have her room to herself for her last night at home. But instead of sleeping I was crying hard about the stone that God obviously wasn’t going to give me, still acting as if that stone would somehow fill my belly and provide nourishment.

    Fast forward to the next day. It is traditional for the bride to be an hour or two late to the wedding, and it wasn’t until 3:30, when the ceremony was scheduled to begin, that I finally clued in to what God had been trying to do in my heart. Waiting in the beauty parlor parking lot with the rest of the family, next to the Volkswagon which would take my sister to the wedding, I sat on a chair near the gate and pulled out a tiny notebook to pray on paper, beginning with a couple sentences that I should have said days earlier.

    “Jesus, thank you for not always giving me what I want. Sometimes you give me way more and way better. I’m absolutely loving these family moments, taking inordinate numbers of pictures with my Brasilian parents and brothers and the car, mostly out of boredom. But hey, we’re all looking really good, and there’s nothing else to do, so why not? And if I were a bridesmaid, I wouldn’t be storing up these special memories and photos.
    But truth be told, if I were a bridesmaid, and already at the wedding location waiting, I’d probably be loving the time with the cousins and other girls just as much.

    And that’s one of the secrets of contentment, isn’t it, Jesus? Instead of focusing on what I want but don’t have, I must choose to focus on what You have given me, in the present, and enjoy this present to the full.”

    And then I reflected on all the wonderful memories of “wedding week,” not to cheer myself up or look on the bright side, but with true gratitude finally bubbling up in my lustful, wandering heart.

    Who got to spend a whole day of sister time with the bride-to-be on Thursday, at the shopping mall and then at the beauty salon? I did.

    Who got to go see her new apartment for the first time with her, our parents, her soon-to-be-husband and mother-in-law? I did.

    When she had a meltdown on Monday night, who was there to hug her tightly and tell her it was alright to cry and pray over her and all the frustrations? I was.

    Who hung out with our dad and brothers and ther spiffy Volkswagon, joking and talking and taking photos while we waited “5 little minutes” that turned out to be two hours?

    Who came home with the family of the bride after the party was over and done, to recover from and reminisce about a wonderful but exhausting event? I did.

    Although the bridesmaids have pink dresses and official photos to remember the occasion by, they didn’t get any of these special moments God gave to me and my Brasilian sister and family.

    So if I had needed to choose between the stone I wanted and the bread God prepared instead, I would have chosen the special moments over the bridesmaid wish in a heartbeat. As always, God knew the best choice and He made it for me.

    Many times, God doesn’t allow us to choose our circumstances. But we do have the choice to experience what He gives us, living every moment to the hilt, and be grateful for it. Contentment is always an option. And as I write these words, the Father challenges my heart with another situation in this cross-cultural adventure, one which has much more far-reaching consequences than this bridesmaid story, affecting me, my coworker, our work, and the people group among whom we serve. This time, it really seems like I am asking for bread and God is giving a stone. But, by His grace, I refuse to live in discontentment and doubt this time. I choose to believe that He loves me and is giving me what is best.

    Have you ever asked God for something you thought was good, only to realize later that you were asking for stones?

    Do you ever struggle to trust that our Heavenly Father truly loves us and will make the best choice for you and those you love?

    Will you make the conscious choice to believe that God is giving you the bread you need, no matter what your circumstances today look like?

    1. Karen Huber October 28, 2018

      Great photo, Paulette! And thank you for sharing your thoughts! Keep your eyes peeled for new prompts on our submissions page!

  5. kathryn borba October 26, 2018

    was praying fitfully this morning and searching the Psalms. when i came cross a verse calling me to contentment. I smirked and kept searching for a different word to speak to my heart. Later as I was reading a favorite blog what do you know but the exact verse was the theme of the front page posting. I know better than to fight God when he’s calling me to something. Apparently today’s something is contentment. Sigh. Thank you for your words that God has used to prompt my heart towards trusting him and resting in him contentedly

    1. Karen Huber October 28, 2018

      Kathryn, I feel you about praying fitfully! And I’m so thankful for your vulnerability and openness to how God is speaking to you. May we all feel full and at peace through Him!

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