Maturing Past Our Selves
“O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 131, NASB)
I started to be involved in ministry when I was 10 years old, where once every other month, I’d spend one Sunday service in my church’s nursery. Yes, it was a small beginning, but to me, it was fun. We’d rock babies into their morning naps, run after toddlers playing with dolls
and trains and puzzles, and give them a snack before their parents picked them up.
From there, I joined the youth worship team, and after high school, I became a youth leader. Eventually, I wound up as the co-director of the youth group and led a worship team. I had a lot of responsibility and balanced it all well. But about a year ago, I felt like the Lord was asking me to leave the church I had been attending for 25 years, in order to join a church and begin a life with my now-husband.
Suddenly, all the balls I kept in the air disappeared. And it’s not like I didn’t like them; I loved my roles. I loved leading. I know I was good at it, and still could be. But here’s the thing: I think at one point, I loved my ministries more than I loved the Lord. And when I stepped away from it all, I found myself in this strange void. I had to maintain devotion without the pressures of needing to perform, needing to put a lesson together, or needing to lead a worship set. All of a sudden, for the first time in years, my time with the Lord had no ulterior motive.
And the places that I thought I was so solid in my faith turned out to be so fragilely weak.
So when I read this psalm hidden in the back of the book, Psalm 131, comprised of three short verses, I realize that this is the best summation of what I want my relationship with the Lord to look like. This is what I want my faith to look like. I want to be so satisfied with where I am that my heart remains humble– that my eyes don’t stray looking for the next opportunity or towards some high and lofty thing that makes me look impressive or puff up myself, pretending it’s all for the glory of God.
That’s a very human thing to desire and a very common thing within the Church. We’ve probably all known someone who’s done it– if we haven’t done it ourselves. Why? Because it’s hard to lay our self down. It’s hard to not fall into our own prideful desires. It’s natural for us to want responsibility... to lead and set the vision for a ministry and be accountable for people. Human nature will always want to be in control, but that control does not lend itself to serving people. It only serves itself. And when we lean into that self-importance, we only allow the glory to be for ourselves.
And so in this season, this psalm is where I want to be, what I want to be sure that I have. I want to know in my heart that I’ve reached that place where my soul is composed and quieted, where I don’t have to stir and strive to be or accomplish anything.
In verse 2, I find the picture of a weaned child to be so perfect. When a mother nurses a child, that child receives all the calm, soothing comfort it needs during a season in its life where little else is understood. To the child, feeding on their mother equates not only to physical nourishment but also to closeness and peace. How many times might a child fall into a deep, quiet sleep on their mother’s chest, so lulled by the serene moment?
But at one point in that child’s life, that desire for milk must be rejected. The mother does it so that the child can mature– it can’t live off its mother’s milk forever. The child needs something more substantial and the natural progression of its life moves past the appropriate time where that child can breastfeed. But that doesn’t mean that the child can’t enjoy that same time with its mother, it just means that it must be initiated and sustained by something else: a desire to spend time together.
I think many Christians do the same thing. They use ministry or position as the means to spend time with God because it feels good. It feels good that other people think someone’s relationship with Jesus is deep because of their position. It feels good to be the one who gets to facilitate an encounter with Jesus so that someone else can be brought nearer. But we should never mistake milk– or ministry– for relationship. We should desire that our relationship with God and our desire for Him would mature beyond wanting to serve others. We shouldn’t desire a title over an opportunity to know Jesus. We shouldn’t strive so much for a position, that we miss the chance to compose ourselves to see Jesus better. To lay our selves down.
And that’s not to say that as Christians, we shouldn’t serve in our churches. That’s not what I mean at all. More often than not, churches need help and want people to step up and lend a hand. But you should never allow your ministry to eclipse the reason you do it, and if you find that you’ve allowed that to happen, that might be a sign that you need to take a step back for a while.
We need to wean ourselves from the need to be seen as something. We need to cut ourselves off from the desire to be known by people so that we can know the Father. And the funny thing is, the moment you realize that God Himself is better than any way you could serve Him, is when you become one hundred times more effective at glorifying Him and discipling others into a deeper faith and understanding of who He is.