Skip to content
Jan 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 16 2022



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;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 131

Intro: When we read the Psalms, we are in the realm of sacred poetry

Poetry begins in the heart and it speaks to the heart
– we can analyze a poem – take it into the lab and dissect it
• but if we go too far, we kill the specimen
• in our first encounter with a poem we need to hear it–that’s all
◦ listen to the music of its rhythm
◦ feel the effect of its words and images
– what I feel in this poem is contentment
• here is a poet who accepts himself as he is
my heart is not lifted up
◦ in the Old Testament, a heart lifted up is conceited, full of itself
my eyes are not raised too high
◦ eyes looking downward is a gesture of humility
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me
• he does not grasp at things beyond his reach
◦ this reminds me of a classic Eastwood line,
“A man’s got to know his limitations”

Rather than striving for greater status, more things, or being agitated with his circumstances,
– the poet has calmed his anxious and troubled soul
• wanting to communicate his heart,
• he looked for a metaphor to illustrate his restful state
– a “weaned child” is not a nursing child and is not on his mother’s lap to feed,
• but to receive love, soothing, reassurance
◦ the picture is well-chosen
◦ the mother’s arms and voice are enough
• the psalm ends, “O Israel, hope in the LORD”
◦ my soul cannot find rest if it has no hope
◦ it’s a lovely poem – and a challenge to us in our frenetic times
Charles Spurgeon, “It is one of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.”

It turns out, the psalmist was onto something

Only recently have psychologist come to appreciate it
– typically, the mother is the primary source of the infant’s sense of security and safety
• two names stand out in the early stages of research into mother-child bonding
◦ British psychologist, John Bowlby and Canadian psychologist, Mary Ainsworth
• Bowlby introduced the concept of “attachment theory”
◦ research indicated babies come into the world hardwired for connection
◦ how well they bond with others depends on their bond with the mother
Bowlby, “Initially the only means of communication between infant and mother is through emotional expression and its accompanying behavior. Although supplemented later by speech, emotionally mediated communication nonetheless persists as a principal feature of intimate relationships throughout life.”
A “secure attachment” is one “in which the individual is confident that his parent (or parent figure) will be available, responsive, and helpful should he encounter adverse or frightening situations.”
◦ what enables a mother to provide a secure attachment?
Bowlby, “. . . it is necessary also to consider what has led a mother to adopt the style of mothering she does. One major influence on this is the amount of emotional support, or lack of it, she herself is receiving at the time. Another is the form of mothering that she herself received when a child.”
• initially, Bowlby concluded that there were two “attachment styles”:
◦ “secure” and “insecure
– Mary Ainsworth, however, extended his research
• she devised a way to test a child’s attachment to mother
◦ by close observation of a toddler in a variety of different situations
◦ this was dubbed, “The Strange Experiment”
• she discovered two forms of insecure attachment:
◦ “insecure avoidant” and “insecure anxious/resistant”
◦ later research identified a third–“insecure disorganized”

Research was advanced in 1970’s by filming infant and toddler behavior
– then slowly analyzing the films frame by frame and noting vocalizations, body language and facial expression
Colwyn Trevarthen, “through detailed analysis of timing and expression [researchers were] able to show that infants are actually born with playful intentions and sensitivity to the rhythms and expressive modulations of a mother’s talk and her visible expressions and touches.”
• later on, advanced imaging technology allowed them to observe the living brain in action
• in this way they were able to discover what structures in the brain were activated during bonding exercises
Trevarthen, “We now know that there are widespread events in both cortical and subcortical regions of the brain that are specific to emotions and intentions, and that these animate the acquisition of conceptual knowledge or motor skills. . . . [These structures of the brain] involved in both making and recognizing coordinated patterns of facial and vocal expressions, including those that will eventually produce and receive language, are already specialized for these functions in a 2-month-old infant.”

Are you wondering, “Where is Chuck going with this?”

We learn intimacy through our family, beginning at our birth
– what does knowing this do for you and I today?
first: it gives us a way to understand our own intimacy skills
◦ what do we know about being intimate with another?
◦ what was our experience? what were our examples like?
◦ how well developed are our skills?
second: it suggests some basic skills for developing intimacy
◦ and perhaps healing for any damage done to our own bonding experience
– so, lesson one: “charity” really does “begin at home”

Is there a list of instructions we can follow?

We have to be careful when it comes to lists
– for instance, our “list” for an intimate marriage may include:
commitment: but what if a woman endangers herself and children because she refuses to divorce an abusive husband
communication: but here is an educated couple who are very articulate when they pour contempt on each other
compassion: but one person treats their spouse in a condescending way – with pity, as if talking to a child
• communication itself is not what makes for intimacy
◦ what counts is the nature and quality of the couple’s interaction
– another concern:
• using a list to demand specific performance from the other spouse
• the most commonly abusive example is men telling their wives they must “submit”

Everything that can be said regarding intimacy needs to be qualified
– it also has to be adapted to a family’s various personalities

We need to think about an environment that fosters family intimacy

Trust – we can rely on each other
Safety – no one is going to be harmed; physically, verbally, or emotionally
Acceptance – for who I am and what I am not
Mutual understanding – sincere listening to each other
Healthy honesty – we do not have to share everything
Empathic – we feel for and with each other; we feel what the other person feels

We need to think about behavior that fosters family intimacy

Involvement – each person is emotionally present and engaged
Attention – not 100% of time, but definitely when someone needs it
Affirmation – you not only exist, but you know your existence is special
Affection – we need touch; our bodies need it as well as our souls
– you know, Jesus did not have to touch every person he healed
Sensitivity – awareness of others’ attitude or body language
– our sensitivity is diminished by our own stress and anxiety
– we need to be aware of this
Responsive – you get serious feedback from others
Conversations – that get to the core of our emotional needs and wants
Mercy – forgiveness is always available
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Mt. 18:21-22)

We need to think about what blocks intimacy

Negative patterns of interaction – family “habits”
Lies – we can always work with the truth, even if painful
Judgment – if I as a person am condemned, labeled, shamed I will not seek intimacy with those who do these things to me
– or I may feel incapacitated by the judgment of others
Apathy – not trying or not caring
Abusive speech or actions
Neglect – if we don’t bother with each other, don’t listen — a passive form of abuse

Conclusion: Every positive thing mentioned above is true of Jesus

And this really is the point
We love, because we were first loved (1 Jn. 4:19)
Scripture also tells us, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8)
God has built into us a need for love and the capacity to love
The pursuit of intimacy is our path of spiritual development
– spiritual growth and an ever truer, deeper love for others are not different paths, but the are one and the same
If we do not want to seek intimacy for ourselves,
because don’t feel the need for it, or it’s too risky, or it requires too much work,
we must do it for the sake of others
Oivier Clements, “Spiritual progress has no other test in the end, nor any better expression, than our ability to love.”

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God 1 John 4:7

Leave a comment