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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, May 7, 2020  

Today’s Hymn

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
and make me love as I ought to love.

“Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart” (v. 1) by George Croly
Hymn 688, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

Much as I love the word “wean”—how it sounds, the images it conjures up—I also chafe at its mention. Psalm 131 talks about calming one’s soul, “like a weaned child with its mother.” That has always puzzled me. I don’t have children, so I never had to wean a toddler from breast or bottle, and I certainly don’t remember my own weaning. But I’ve been around long enough to know that it can be a rough process. I always think about how confusing it must be for the baby. “Wait, this works for me, and it seemed like it was working for you, Mom. Why fix what’s not broken?” 

And weaning my heart from earth? That makes me think of Emily Webb’s speech at the end of Our Town when she has the chance to go back and relive an ordinary day from her life after she has died in childbirth: “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.” The earth is a gift, right? The miracle of our bodies, the diverse wonder of creation in all its forms, the chance to build and be community with people we love. Why would I pray—in song or otherwise—to be weaned from all that? 

Because, like a child, I can get so caught up in what I want and what I love, I miss God inviting me to grow, to become more of who I am supposed to be. I suspect if I asked weaning moms about that process, they would tell me that there is definitely a point at which breastfeeding must end so that they can have a little of their own lives back. We aren’t meant to be fed forever; we need to learn to feed ourselves. We aren’t meant to get so attached to the things of this earth; we need to let what we experience in our earthly lives teach us about God. 

In Scotland, the word wean can also be used as a word for “child” (say “wee one” quickly). We are not wee ones forever. It’s never easy to grow up (even in middle age), but this hymn reminds me that the spirit will “stoop to my weakness” and come to my aid. 

God of new life, help me to use this Easter season to learn the lexicon of love. Do not let me rest in who I was but quicken my heart so that I may move toward who you want me to be. In the name of the Risen Jesus. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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