I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me. (Psalm 131: 2)
We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. (1 Thes 2: 7b-8)
My babies are not quiet eaters. They snort and wheeze, gasp and gurgle. So loudly that strangers often ask if the child is ok, if he has a bad cold, if he always sounds like that.
Yes, I smile in reply. So far my children have proved to be loud nursers.
And yet both boys – like many babies, I imagine – have shared a wonderful habit of sometimes slipping off the breast with a quiet sigh and a contented smile, letting their head flop back in a deep sleep that we affectionately referred to as “drunk on milk.”
I loved to watch them doze silently then, finally quiet and calm, bellies full and smiles satisfied. They want for nothing in that peaceful moment. Their bodies breathe in a deep peace.
Once the hungry cries have ceased (and our own blood pressure has dropped!), we can find something sacred in the act of feeding a child. Grandparents find joy in giving a bottle; fathers delight in watching the toddler gobble down dinner. We find satisfaction in meeting the needs of little ones and knowing that we can provide for the simple things they want – milk, food, comfort, sleep.
Regardless of how we feed our babies, the act of satisfying their hunger requires a gift of self: our attention, our time, our patience, even our very bodies themselves. The way we care for children is a sign of our love, a symbol of our affection.
And the satisfaction we find when we see that their needs are met, that they have quieted and stilled themselves on our laps, is a tender moment of caring for the youngest among us.
I love this image of God holding us like a weaned child on its mother’s lap. And I love that Paul uses the same gentle image of mothering to describe his affection for the beloved people he served.
Imagine what a church we could be if our leaders saw themselves as caring mothers. And imagine what a people we could be if we quieted our cries and demands to simply settle ourselves into the loving embrace of a mothering God.
What are the gentle, quiet moments you enjoy with your child?
parenting and Scripture is a new weekly series designed to give parents of young children a chance to reflect on the Sunday readings outside of Mass (often a three-ring-circus-of-Cheerios-and-cry-rooms). Something to chew on as we’re chasing the little ones and wondering, “Did I even hear the readings today?” Or something to muse over after we’ve put the babies to bed.