“Gather a few things,” Yves told her. “Come with us.”
“I cannot leave,” Felice said. “I am afraid. This must be what it means to get old. I never was afraid when I was young. Now I am afraid all the time.” The Farming of Bones by: Edwidge Danticat
I was around 9 years old and it was summer. Western North Carolina is quite temperate most of the year which is why, at least when I was young, no one even thought of having air conditioning. Those few weeks in the summer when the heat spiked and humidity rose were patiently endured by throwing open every window and placing box fans throughout the house.
My mother was canning tomatoes that day which drove the temperature inside our home even higher. So, I lay on my stomach in front of the box fan which was positioned between the kitchen and the dining room playing with my new “pet”, a huge Praying Mantis I had found that morning clinging solemnly to the window screen on the back porch. I thought she was glorious and I held that ultimate insect predator in my bare hands without even the slightest trace of fear. Once, as a child I had an entire egg case of Praying Mantis hatch in the window sill in my room. I must have found it somewhere because I rember the multitude of tiny creatures actually running along inside the house as I scampered to catch them all and release them outside. (A female Praying Mantis usually has around 300 eggs.)
Then, the day came when I was all grown up and had a son of my own and I found a Praying Mantis outside our home. It must have been a male because it was fairly small. I remembered all of the fun I had as a child and decided I would catch it for my son to observe. I moved in for the capture and found to my bewilderment that I could not do it because….I was afraid.
Isn’t it strange that we become more fearful as we grow older? Should we not instead find ourselves more courageous and stronger by the day, especially if we are walking with Christ? I understand that much of the bravery we possess as children is borne of ignorance of the consequences that could follow our actions but as we mature in our faith, should it not be replaced with a new, more resilient courage that is forged as we find God is faithful to us over and again?
And yet, far too often instead of becoming more valiant as the years pass by we find ourselves choosing day by day to cease living our lives because it seems far too great a risk. Then, the day comes when we realize that in the pursuit of safety we have settled down to simply wait for death.
Perhaps that is why scripture offers us time and again the example of children. Many people are familiar with Christ’s admonishment in Matthew 18:3 that we must become “like little children” if we want to enter His kingdom, but I love the lesser known verse about the subject found in Psalm 131:2.
“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2
I reread this verse this past week and I began to think about the characteristics of my own “weaned” children. I remembered back to the time when my three birth children were still nursing and all of those long hours spent in a rocking chair solely devoted to meeting their needs not only for nourishment but comfort and nurturing as well. I remembered the way they would mold their little bodies to mine, soaking up my very presence. I began to think about the concept here that our souls should be like weaned children.
A weaned child has complete trust in his mother that is borne out of nourishment, comfort and love that has been provided to him over and over again. He does not fret about whether or not his needs will continue to be met by his mother. The concept that she would cease to cherish him for even a moment is utterly foreign. Forget him? Impossible.
He has no desire to be anywhere else but with her. He adores her and never doubts that she feels the same way about him and when he is in pain, his most basic instinct is to run directly into her arms. None other would suffice.
When he is at her side, he is more courageous than when alone because he knows she will keep him safe. When she is near he is willing to explore the unknown and attempt that which without her would seem quite impossible because he knows she will catch him when he falls.
Similarly, we should find the source of our courage in Christ as we grow older. Maturity naturally requires us to leave behind the rash, thoughtless courage of youth to embrace the bravery of a soul that has placed its trust in a hope that can not fail and chooses to quiet itself as a weaned child with his mother.