This psalm has been sitting on my heart and mind since I read it a few months ago in my Bible reading plan. If you weren’t aware of it already, the YouVersion Bible app allows you to join a devotion plan together with friends. Doing so allows you to leave comments on each day of the reading plan, and you can read what others’ thoughts are after they’ve completed the readings for the day. It’s been a godsend, because clicking into the Bible app is easy to do when I’m browsing on my phone, and I’m also reminded to spend time reading my Bible when I get notifications saying that others have commented. This is absolutely not a paid advertisement; just my enthusiasm for this app is immense because I’ve been able to find community through doing my devotion in this app, and community is something that can’t be undervalued right now.
Anyway, a few friends and I have been reading through the Bread of Life devotional plan, just one of many reading plans that organize the Bible so as to be read through in the span of a year. It’s an intensive reading plan and I’ve (surprise!) never done something like it before. The plan begins with the Psalms and then dives into the other books of the Bible afterwards, and the juxtaposition of the different books of the Bible have been eye-opening indeed.
So it was that I encountered Psalm 127, which I will post here in full for your convenience:
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,Psalm 127. NIV.
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
My initial response was to relate the first few verses to my own productivity. I’d started a new ministry at church in the summer but it wasn’t panning out like I thought it would. Instead of being a team effort and a place of community, it was (and still is very much) a one-person show. Not my intention. “Aha,” I thought, “God is the One who establishes. All I need to do is work, and not worry about the result.” Then I looked at the second half of the psalm and wondered why the writer had begun talking about children. I couldn’t understand the shift in focus.
However, when I considered the entire psalm as a cohesive piece (since it was presented that way), I realized that perhaps the overarching theme of this was that all results are in God’s hands. And like the results of work, children are also given to us based on what God wants, rather than what or when we want something in particular. I do my best; God takes care of the rest. It’s an old adage but one I’m learning to take comfort in, especially with regards to my own family. By the time this post is published, it will have been more than a year since Jack and I have been hoping for a second child.
I know the pandemic has meant that not having a child right now has probably been a good thing. If I had had a newborn and a toddler amid lockdown and isolation rules, it would have been a very trying time indeed. (Shoutouts to all those pandemic mommas!) Still, I want to know that my toddler will have family even after her parents pass on. Last year, I struggled with seeing friends and acquaintances announce their pregnancies (and some of them mothers who had their child after mine!) That my premenstrual symptoms have changed since pregnancy to become more severe (now with nausea and eye-blinding headaches!) haven’t helped. I lost count of the number of pregnancy tests I went through because every month I’d be nauseous, my cycle would be a little off, or something. All the tests were negative. Still, I kept trying, hoping that I’d be able to catch a positive result early on.
And yet, as I have been meditating on Psalm 127, I have felt God turn my heart around. Look, He says, your first one came around at the perfect time. He’s right. Jack and I were working abroad at the time. We found that we were expecting the weekend right before we had to confirm our contracts with the school for the following year. If not for that discovery, we would have signed on to stay in China for another year. That same year when we moved back, a number of events happened that made us realize we were glad to be out of China.
It was good that we were home, too. I was hospitalized six weeks before the toddler’s due date for mysterious bleeding. Early hospitalization in China would have been a much more stressful event. As it was, I was quite relaxed all the way up until birth. That same week, Jack began a new (and stressful) teaching position. Because we were home though, we had the support of both sets of parents. And even with the rush of a newborn, we found the exact sort of place we wanted to move into, took possession a month after the preemie showed up, and shortly after, Jack found a more comfortable school, where he still works today.
There’s more, of course, but my point is that God’s timing was perfect in our very near past. Psalm 127 prompted me to remember that God orchestrates and I just do my job, puttering on each day, knowing that God is establishing and growing and building. My job is to do what is before me, but not to fret about the result. This was something I was starting to learn during my time as a teacher, but now it’s a lesson for my life at home. It’s a lesson I’m glad to read over and over again, too, because each time I am reminded of just how good God is.