The Word Among Us

Prayer Resources

Rest like a Small Child

Let God Love You

By: Fr. Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ

Rest like a Small Child: Let God Love You by Fr. Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ

LORD, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul,
Like a weaned child to its mother,
weaned is my soul. (Psalm 131:1-2)

The psalmist says that his soul is like a small child sitting on the lap of his mother after having been breastfed. Imagine that child, probably the most peaceful little human on the earth. In a deep, deep rest, the child isn’t thinking of things too sublime. He isn’t thinking of deep and lofty thoughts, heavy philosophical or theological ideas. The child is simply resting in the arms of his mother. This is what I recommend you do today. Place yourself in the arms and on the lap of our Creator. Seek to have the restful spirit of that child today, and for many years to come.

I was the novice director in a small country town in Louisiana called Grand Coteau, where I loved to go for runs out on a country road—Jack Fox Road. Jack Fox Road was made of gravel and dirt and lined with oak trees and pastures with livestock. There weren’t many buildings or cars. About a mile into my run, I would stop and pet Sammy for a while. Sammy was a beautiful black-and-white Border Collie who was quite old. He would just sit there, resting his head on my leg while I rubbed him behind his ears and talked to him. This went on for years.

After a while, when Sammy would see me coming toward him, he would sit smack-dab in the middle of the road, waiting for me to get there. He became so used to this routine that when he saw me getting closer and closer, he would close his eyes and very slowly begin to lean. He trusted that my leg was going to show up right on time. I worried that someday my leg would not make it on time, and poor old Sammy would fall right over! But that never happened; my leg always made it just on time. With his eyes closed and his head leaning against my leg as I scratched behind his ears, Sammy was probably the happiest creature on earth.

About two miles further down Jack Fox Road was another dog named Smokey. Smokey was a small mixed-breed dog, much younger than Sammy. He was full of excitement and couldn’t wait for me to get there. When I would arrive, Smokey would get down and lie on his back, with all four legs completely spread-eagled, so that I could scratch his little chest or rub his belly. I watched a nature video once that said that animals do their best not to expose their vulnerable parts to other animals because they might be killed more easily. Well, Smokey must have never watched that video. Lying there with his underbelly completely exposed while I scratched him, that dog was the happiest little creature on the planet.

One morning I woke up very early, as always, and sat for my prayer. As I prayed and sat in God’s presence, I started thinking about my upcoming daily run. I thought about Sammy and Smokey and the Lord. And the Lord asked me a question that I will never forget. In my mind’s eye, looking at Sammy leaning against me, the Lord asked me, “Mark, when are you going to let me love you that way? When are you going to close your eyes and lean on me and let me love you that way? When are you going to expose your underbelly so that I can make things well again?”

We all love dogs because they love us unconditionally, but I think we also love dogs because they receive love so well. We humans are not that good at giving unconditional love, but I would suggest that we’re even worse at receiving love. And so, as the Lord asked me that day, I ask you today: When are you going to let God love you that way? When are you going to let God love you the way that Sammy and Smokey let me love them?

When you pray today, choose some or all of the following suggestions to pray with:

• Reflect on the psalmist’s image of a small child resting in the lap of his mother.
• Think about Sammy and Smokey and how dogs allow us to love them unconditionally.
• Ask God for the grace to let him do that for you.
• Ask God to make you the kind of creature that can receive that kind of love from the Creator.
• Close your eyes and lean into God’s love today.

Now reread Psalm 131:1-2 again, and tell God,

LORD, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul,
Like a weaned child to its mother,
weaned is my soul.

This is a selection from Ascending with Ignatius: A 30-Day At-Home Retreat by Fr. Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ (The Word Among Us Press, 2020), available from www.wau.org/books.

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