By Jon Berry
“…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.
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” – Psalm 131
This is what love looks like. I didn’t realize it in the moment. Time was running out. I’d been visiting for a week and had not taken a photo. My bags were packed. In a few minutes we’d be leaving for the airport. Come here, I said. I pulled Dad close and snapped a handful of photos. None were right. We both looked a bit awkward, a bit in a hurry.
So I pulled him closer and without thinking planted a big kiss on his cheek. And in an instant the years peeled away, and my dad broke out in a pure, spontaneous grin.
I’m not sure what love is. The word is so deceptively simple. But I think, with time, I’m beginning to learn how to recognize it. That feeling of beingwith; feeling that hand nestled in yours; that head resting on your shoulder; the shoulder where you can rest your head; knowing there’s nowhere you’d rather be; not needing to be anything other than what you are.
It’s that sense, I believe, that Psalm 131 describes. It’s only a wisp of a poem, just three verses, 67 words. It begins in negation – Not. Not. Not. The love we seek, it says – the love that connects us to All – cannot not be found up there, nor out there, nor in possessions or achievements, “the great” and “marvelous.” It’s not without but within.
Psalm 131’s central image, the weaned child with its mother, is so un-Old Testament. There are no burning bushes; no walls falling; no cataclysms. And it’s so perfect: independent, yet dependent, the feeling that continues to draw me home, after all these years, to the farm, my dad, and the renewal they bring.
Within the particular is the portal to the eternal. In the love of the child and the parent is the image of how we are to be with ourselves and in the world. It’s when we let down our walls, and accept our dependence, that peace and love can come in.
For the full text of Psalm 131, click here.