Monday, March 31, 2008

Like a Weaned Child

LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
(Psalm 131)
Earlier this week we were warring, by faith and prayer, for my mother’s healing. She had had a long, hard fight against leukemia and beat it about four years ago. When we became aware last month that it had returned, we immediately went back into battle mode. Mom again gave it her all, but she was older this time around, and weaker. She was weary.

Recently, as she lay in her hospital bed, she was counting her blessings, remembering all the wonderful people she had known, the experiences she had, the places she had visited, her beloved lake home, her children and grandchildren, and the thirty years she had enjoyed with her late husband. I believe she came to the conclusion that she was satisfied.

One of the Scriptures I’ve often prayed for myself and others is from Psalm 91, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him … With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation” (vv. 14, 16). My mother was eighty (we celebrated her birthday just a month ago) and she was satisfied. I account that God fulfilled His promise.

So now we shifted into a different mode, a mode no less founded in faith than was our former mode. We began looking toward a much greater victory, an eternal one. It has always been my way, in praying for and with people suffering from life-threatening disease, to fight beside them when they are ready to fight, but also to let them go if they decide they want to go. Mom decided that she wanted to go, and though it broke our hearts, we — my wife, my brothers and I — began letting her go. Our prayer shifted; we began asking for God to fill her with the sweetness of His presence and lead her gently into the eternal manifestation of His glory.

On Thursday, as my wife and I were traveling to Charlotte to be by her side, I was praying in the psalms, which is my daily habit, and I opened to Psalm 131. It was very appropriate to what I had been thinking and feeling as I faced my mother’s death.

“My heart is not proud, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.” I could not understand why I was being separated from my mother in this way. Oh, I could talk about it philosophically and theologically and spiritually. But my heart did not fathom it — it was too profound for me. It was a mystery, the depths of which only God truly knows. I determined that my heart would not be arrogant, nor my eyes seek out things which belong to God alone.

“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” What was left, then, was to quiet my soul — to leave my mother in God’s hands and trust Him with her. That the psalm writer likens himself to a weaned child was very poignant to the cry of my heart. For nine months I had my existence in the warmth and nurture of my mother’s womb. Then, on the day I was born, the weaning process began. I was separated from her body and placed upon her breast. After a number of months, I was weaned from that and began the long journey of learning how to live apart from her. As I matured, I left home for college, got married, and began to have children of my own. Now I was being weaned from knowing even her physical presence any longer in this life. Though it was difficult, I started letting her go, knowing that I was letting her go to God. My trust is in Him, as was hers.

Mom was also weaning herself away, from this life. She was letting it go. She began by remembering all the lovingkindnesses and tender mercies of God, and giving thanks. Realizing that she was satisfied with this life and ready to enter the next, she expressed her desire to have all her sons around her. Thursday night, my brothers and I were gathered with her in her hospital room. After a while she asked for us all to pray together with her. We joined hands and offered our praise and thanks to God for giving us this wonderful woman. Then she concluded with a prayer of her own, giving thanks to God for her life and all her blessings, and for us. She was letting go — weaning away — and so were we.

The psalm writer, having become like a weaned child by trusting God with everything, ends with a note of joyful expectation: “Hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.” Whatever mystery may be deep for us is not too great for the eternity of God.

Early Sunday morning, Mom passed over into the arms of Jesus. Tomorrow we shall lay her body in the earth, where it shall await resurrection. Our expectation is in God, now and forever, and we shall see my mother again.

All is well.