Last week I listened to my husband speaking to a group of women. He used an apt illustration that has stayed with me. He talked about life being a bit like living in a banana tree filled with monkeys trying to eat the bananas. We face countless distractions and demands from those different monkeys and at times it can be chaotic and unsettling. Whether it is babies, small children, work, busyness, a long “to do list” that never gets completed, exams, study, noise…. I am in that banana tree and it is pretty turbulent and exhausting.
Is it possible with all the clamour, noise and chaos to have a calm and quieted soul?
Psalm 131, a Psalm written by David describes how to zone out to the monkeys in our tree and sit quietly on a branch and draw breath.
1 LORD, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I do not get involved with things
too great or too difficult for me.
2 Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself
like a little weaned child with its mother;
I am like a little child.
3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
both now and forever.
In this Psalm, David is not noisy inside. We have a picture of a quiet, calm man. This is not the experience of David during his whole life – we all know he had failings – adultery and murder come to mind, but this is a picture of the inner soul of David at a particular time in his life.
This Psalm also points us to Jesus. This stillness was true of Jesus’ life – this Psalm gives us a picture of God who became man thinking out loud for us. He speaks of the stillness of the soul of those who walk closely with God.
David had much to be proud of – he was King, handsome, intelligent, and musical and was clearly adored by his family and those who knew him. Despite these very qualities, he put them aside to have a heart not proud. Nor did David look down on those around him. Sometimes we have such a longing to feel recognized and appreciated that this can often be the only way of achieving this – by looking down on others. David has learnt not to have a proud heart or haughty eyes.
Does it matter what our house looks like? Whether one of our children has a very public tantrum or we perform perfectly in our studies and workplace? Sometimes these very things are the monkey’s vying for our attention and we become so preoccupied in making ourselves look good that we stress ourselves out completely and feel rattled and unsettled – our self expectations, usually high are the undoing of us.
David has also freed himself from trying to make sense of his world. There is much that happens in my life, and in the lives of those around me that makes little or no sense. Sometimes I try and make things better for myself or others, and again, I get overwhelmed, as it is never enough. There is a challenge to be like David, and simply say “I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me”, because it does not help me. David knows he is not God. I Sarah Condie, am not God – nor are you. It is only God who sees life in all its fullness.
David has a soul that is at peace. He is quiet inside. It didn’t come spontaneously. He learned how to do it. There is a beautiful picture painted for us of a weaned child sitting on its mother’s lap – this is a picture of a soul at rest. A weaned child is no longer breastfed. If a hungry breastfed baby is put in its mother’s lap, it is wriggly and irritable until it is fed. This same child, once weaned will sit on its mother’s lap, quietly and at peace.
David challenges his readers to put their hope and trust in the Lord. This is what will free them from their inner restlessness. Sit quietly in your banana tree, even for five minutes and focus on the Lord and you will find rest for your souls.
Prayer: Lord, please give me a calm and quiet soul. I am positively giddy with trying to stay on my banana tree – there is much to distract, dismay, disappoint and hurt me. I ask that I can be like that weaned child and sit still. Please remove the distracting restlessness from me. Help me to feed on your word and be encouraged to remember to put my hope in you – both today and tomorrow. Amen.