December 23, 2009

"Peace, be still" - Psalm 131

This application of Psalm 131 by David Powlison cut right to my heart, exposing the pride that lies at the root much of the inner "noisiness" that I often experience and provided some helpful guidance for addressing it. Here's an excerpt:
A pool of water in the stillness of dawn is highly sensitive to vibration. Watch the surface carefully. You detect the approach of the slightest breeze or a slight tremor in the ground. You locate the wriggling of a fish you cannot see or a minute waterbug skating over the surface. In the same way, this quiet psalm can make you highly sensitive to “noise.” It is an instrument with which to detect gusts, temblors, thrashing, and insects in the soul. What makes us so noisy inside? Turn the psalm into its opposite, the anti-psalm:

Self,
 my heart is proud (I’m absorbed in myself),
 and my eyes are haughty (I look down on other people),
 and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me.
So of course I’m noisy and restless inside, it comes naturally,
 like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap,
 like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries.
I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time.

Noisiness makes perfect sense. You can identify exactly where the rattling noises come from.

Do you remember Alice in Wonderland, how Alice was either too big or too small? Because she was never quite the right size, she was continually disoriented. We all have that problem. We are the wrong size. We imagine ourselves to be independent and autonomous: proud hearts. We become engrossed in monstrous trivialities of our own devising. We pursue grandiosities and glories. We become afraid of our own shadows. One of the symptoms of the disease is that we become noisy inside. Seventeenth-century English had a great word for how we stir up much ado about nothing: vainglory. Or, in Macbeth’s bitter word: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (V:5).

Of course, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem while we busily telemarket our pride both to ourselves and to others. “I just want a little respect and appreciation. Of course I want the home appliances to work and the car mechanic to be honest. That’s pretty normal. I want approval and understanding, to be included. Is that too much to ask? I want the church to thrive, my sermon to go well, the worship to be biblical. It’s for God, after all. I want satisfaction and compensation for the ways others did me wrong. If others would just own up, and then treat me right. I don’t want much. If only I had better health, a little more money, a more meaningful job, nicer clothes, and a restful vacation, then I’d be satisfied. I want a measure of success—just a bit of recognition—as an athlete, a beauty, an intellectual, a musician, a leader, a mother. I want control. Who doesn’t? Comfort, ease, convenience. Why not? I want to feel good. Doesn’t God want me to feel good? I want to feel good about myself, to have more self-confidence, to believe in myself. I want…well, I want MY WAY. I WANT THE GOODIES. I WANT GLORY. I WANT GOD TO DO MY WILL. I WANT TO BE GOD…Doesn’t everybody?” Our slavery to the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Pet. 1:4) seems so plausible. Our restless disorientation seems so natural. So desirable. But it’s noisy. The noise tips us off to what’s going on. The static of anxiety, irritation, despondency, or ambition makes sense from within the logic of a proud heart. If you are not proud, then quietness and composure make sense.

Read the whole thing here.

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