Counsel in self-awareness from Psalm 131
“You can be anything you want to be! You’ve got it in you! The sky’s the limit! Go for it! A little bit of hard work and it’s yours! Remake yourself into whatever you want to be!” So shout the magazine covers, the book titles, the therapists, the parents to their children … so insist those who have a thorough belief in human capability, who scorn boundaries and limits as mere hurdles in the road to be cleared. Our world, especially my western culture, holds faithfully to this view of the self.
It is important to be aware of your self, your heart and your soul. But if you share my same faith in Christ Jesus, your awareness is not based on human philosophies. You know that God, the maker of your self, also instructs you how to think about that self. David, shepherd, warrior and king, made himself vulnerable to us, laid his heart bare within the pages of scripture. His intent, second to ascribing all praise to God, is to instruct us on a proper self- awareness – – seeing ourselves from God’s point of view. So let’s take a look at one of his songs that has instructed me down through the years.
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.
David does not make much of himself. He does not desire to be significant to anyone but his sheep. He is not impressed with himself or with his influence. He is not proud of his accomplishments nor think himself above others. He is humble, seeing himself through God’s eyes, oriented towards loving God, not himself. His focus on God puts his view of self in its proper place.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.
What might these “great matters and “things too profound for me” be? David didn’t try to be what he wasn’t. How much are we tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought; as indispensable or deserving or invincible? How foolishly we build up our children’s esteem in themselves, only for them to discover later that we built on shifting sands. It was all a lie. No one can have all they want, do anything they want and be anything they may want to be. David, in his humility, knew his limits. We are wise to study ours.
Secondly, how taken is your mind with speculations? Do I let my thoughts go round and round with speculations about other people, what they think of me; with the future and the “what ifs”? Such ponderings either serve to stoke my pride, or fan the flame of my fears into a blaze that singes even those around me.
A third great matter, things too profound for us, are the great mysteries of God. Not even our neatly packaged, instructive catechisms, statements of faith and systematic theologies can contain Him. David praises God whose thoughts are very deep and can’t be fathomed. Isaiah tells us God’s thoughts and His ways are above ours, His designs too deep for our understanding. And Paul labors to explain how it is that our slavery to sin enables God to show mercy to us all. How do I wrap my mind around that? The apostle himself is astonished. You can just hear him finally raise his voice and declare, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” [from Romans 11] Do I humbly admit that God has purposefully placed the full extent of His deep thoughts and divine wisdom beyond my reach?
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
A nursing child is a restless child in his mother’s arms, banging his head on her chest, twisting this way and that, until he gets what he’s rooting around for. But a weaned child will sit contentedly.
David sent his soul to rest in the God he totally trusted. No head banging to sort out thoughts that circled in his head; no rooting around for what wasn’t his; not flailing his arms in self-assertion. He cried, he questioned and in the end, he was content to let his soul restfully trust in the God he hungered to know. He seems to say, “Let me know God, and He will tell me all I need to know about my self, my circumstances, and in His perfect timing, too.”
“Thus does a gracious soul quiet itself under the loss of that which it loved and disappointment in that which it hoped for, and is easy whatever happens, lives and lives comfortably, upon God and the covenant-grace, when creatures prove dry breasts.” M. Henry
Canary perched on the seat in the grocery cart. I rolled us down the aisle of the store while the little guy sang clearly, sweetly (that’s why I called him Canary) the chorus he must have heard repeatedly at home: “No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” He cared nothing for himself, or what other shoppers might think. Shamelessly, he sang what he knew about Jesus.
These had been tense months. We were waiting for all of the financial support we needed before we could go to Portugal for language study. Any day now we would be closing our suitcases for the last time and getting on that plane. But the days stretched to weeks, and to months. We moved from one temporary house to another. Uncertainty and change were the norm in our home. And yet, our Canary sang. He was not concerned with these great matters before us. He did not bother his soul about the moving, the leaving, becoming a third culture kid or any other profound thing. His soul was quiet and at rest for he trusted God.
Oh Israel, [oh Church, oh Christian,] put your hope in the Lord now and always.
Canary has outgrown the cart, but not the hope in his heart;
regarding his “self” in small measure, to know Christ is his treasure.
Photo: grocery store in Namibia