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Grief AND thankfulness: The weaned child

Lynne Baab • Saturday November 9 2019

Grief AND thankfulness: The weaned child

I have two sons, and I breast-fed both of them. When my older son was 9 months old, the irritations of nursing were growing, so I weaned him. Afterward, I missed nursing so much. I decided with my second son that I would let him nurse much longer. He got bored with it when he was slightly over two and stopped on his own.

In that second year of nursing, my son was able to toddle over to me, climb on my lap, and ask to nurse. After he stopped nursing, he continued to climb into my lap. I felt a difference in him when he sat on my lap before and after weaning.

Before weaning, there was always the possibility of feeding. As my son’s mother, I was a source of comfort to him in myself, to be sure, but that comfort was always connected on some level to me as a source of food. Once he was weaned, the level of contentment in just being with me was different. He had no goal except my presence.

I would not understand Psalm 131 the way I do today without that experience of nursing a child into toddlerhood. Take a look at this short psalm, only three verses.

     O Lord, 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.
     O Israel, hope in the Lord
     from this time on and forevermore.
          —Psalm 131

I wrote last week about a quotation I discovered that affirms that mature human beings are called to hold grief and gratitude in two hands. For most of 2019, I have been grieving a variety of things, as well as experiencing deep thankfulness for a whole variety of other things and for God’s presence and help with the hard things.

I’ve experienced an inner dialog about grief and thankfulness. I argue with myself that if I’m feeling so sad, I shouldn’t also have so many moments of gratitude and even happiness. And if I’m feeling grateful for so many things, I shouldn’t be so sad other times.

I have realized I engage in continual monitoring and judgment of my thoughts and feelings. I am seeing more clearly the ways this damages my life. In my present challenge of learning to hold grief and gratitude in two hands, my inner self-critical dialogue reduces my ability to rest in God as I experience both of them.

The weaned girl child sitting on her mother's lap is simply present there, not occupying herself “with things too great and too marvelous for me” (Psalm 131:1). She’s not criticizing anything she sees or anything she finds in her own thoughts and feelings. She doesn’t need anything from her mother other than presence and comfort.

I want to grow in being that weaned child in God’s arms. I want to experience grief and gratitude in company with Jesus without judging what I'm thinking and feeling. I want to peacefully enjoy God's presence and leave all judgment in God’s hands.

Next week: another scripture that is helping me in my journey of embracing grief AND gratitude. Illustration by Dave Baab: his sister Connie with her granddaughter.

My book on this topic – Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian Lifenow available as an audiobook as well as paperback and kindle.

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