My first grandchild was born earlier this year. We wrapped her in cotton cloths. Soft ones. We called her our burrito. Sometimes when she slept, we were tempted to wake her, to have our eyes meet hers, to give her yet another hundred kisses.
After a few weeks, we fell away from swaddling—I’m not sure why. Maybe we thought she had adjusted to life outside of her mother’s womb. But she became unsettled, the nervous system wasn’t in control of unruly limbs, open space and complete freedom wasn’t comforting. Her world was too big for her to manage.
It would be a few days before we would put two and two together.
Our baby missed being wrapped up.
I’ve thought a lot about swaddling since then. Maybe it's because I've been told recently (yet again) how faith is a crutch. How it’s something people lean on so they don’t have to use their own two feet.
My faith doesn’t feel like that. A crutch is a false leg designed to help a person until his own broken leg heals.
Faith is not something false designed to help a person hobble along.
It’s something genuine that envelops us in comfort, love, grace, hope, peace, and mercy because its foundation is our unchanging God. It keeps us from flailing, and being insecure in a world that can be too much.
Faith is more like swaddling cloth.
Occasionally man gets woven into the swaddling—and that’s when it feels constricting—cruel even. There have been times in history when wet nurses used tight swaddling to make it easier for them to neglect the infants in their charge. Throughout history, this kind of abuse has caused hip, other body deformities, and even death.
Man can use God’s Word to abuse, neglect, maim, hate, and kill. He can take what was meant for good and use it for evil. And so it goes with swaddling.
Wrapping infants (with either strips of cloth or a square of cloth) was designed to provide warmth, security, and aid the limbs’ straight growth. It was a sign an infant was cared for. Ezekiel refers to Israel as being un-swaddled, a metaphor for abandonment.
And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. Ezekiel 16:4 (ESV)
I think about Jesus whose birth we are close to celebrating.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
Jesus in swaddling cloths.
Wrapped firmly in warmth and love.
Helping Him grow straight and true.
That’s how I think of God in my life. That’s how I think of His Word. I’m not sure why knowledge of who God is and who we are in Him makes one person feel free and another as if he’s been handed an anvil. One he must rid himself of. This person does not want to serve or submit to any authority but his own.
In part it's human nature—visible in my own sweet granddaughter. The only frustrations she’s experienced in seven months of living (outside of being hungry or tired), are the things we’ve said no to—the fork, the iron, the glassware, the pencil, the important paperwork.
In part it’s maturity—hopefully as she grows she’ll understand that well-made boundaries serve us.
There are times I fly more freely in the Spirit of God’s laws—when the swaddling feels looser than usual—perhaps because in some areas, His Word indwells me so thoroughly.
There are other times when I don’t want to be left to my own devices, because I know how destructive those devices can be, when I wrap God’s Word around me more securely than usual.
We don’t swaddle my granddaughter with cloths, anymore. We do wrap her in our tender arms and our unending love. We pray one day, she’ll feel God’s love doing the same.
I pray you feel the security of what God offers. Not because you’re weak and need a crutch, but because you are a truth-seeker.
And the truth is He is our Creator—when was the last time you beheld anything with any complexity or purpose that wasn’t the result of someone having created it?
The truth is we are created in His image.
We are His beloved children.
He longs to have a relationship with us.
Left on our own, we die.
He works all things to our ultimate good.
If we let Him.
Cradle an infant in your own arms for a few minutes, and these truths become easier to understand, easier to feel.
You are loved by the Creator of the universe.
May we all wrap ourselves in that this Christmas.
All in Goodwill,