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Song & A Story: “Psalm 131”

This psalm is medicinal to me.

It was recommended to me during my last semester of college by an old, wise professor of mine. I remember meeting with him in order to air out some angst I had been carrying around. In hindsight, I believe my angst had something to do with me trying to know everything, account for all my feelings, and somehow manufacture peace on my own terms. It may come to you as a surprise that this wasn’t working out so well for me.

I came to this particular professor because he has a way about him where it seems that by merely looking at you, he understands you. You get the feeling that he has been where you are. In startlingly few words, he affirms, corrects, and makes fun of you all at once. My meeting with him may have lasted twenty minutes, and I walked out of his office laughing at myself, my smile traced with a healthy dose of shame.

After I had unloaded my unsightly qualms with being the person I am, among the first things he said to me was, “Somebody needs to read Psalm 131.” He then took it upon himself to read it aloud to me. And with a glimmer in his eye, he interceded:

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.

And there, it seems, he made direct eye contact with me, without much subtlety at all.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

That night was one of those rare occasions when a song comes right out. I sat on my bed with my door closed and played some music I had written a few days ago, now knowing its use. With just a few changes in lyrical phrasing, the psalm became a prayer I could sing, and one I especially needed to hear.

It was and still is a gift. I did not seek it out, but it was handed to me. Which seems quite consistent with the theme of the psalm and with what I so deeply need to remember—that all the best songs are not devised, but received.


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