All three of my biological children refused to be swaddled. I had received as gifts those swaddling doo-hickey-magjigger-thingys that are supposed to make it easy for you, but my sweet little angels would have none of it.
As early as their first days out of the womb, they fought to be free from any and all restraints. They were determined to expend their energy flailing around in their new environment, albeit helplessly. Even when I tried to place something within their grasp, their tiny fingers and yet undeveloped muscles couldn’t coordinate to make it work.
And that was fine with me, because I was devoted to caring for them in their helpless stage. I understood that this was a normal part of their development. Even if Heaven would have had it that their development was somehow delayed, I was prepared to take care of my children as long as they were unable to care for themselves.
So I found it rather amusing that they insisted on not being swaddled.
That is, until I remembered a vision God gave me once of myself. I was emerging from a womb, struggling to break free and run, only my feet were stuck. At the time of the vision, I was quite frustrated. I wanted so much to be released into gifts and ministries and my calling, but the doors were not opening. Instead, God was busy trying to keep me just a little longer in the womb. He was trying to swaddle me. And I would have none of it.
The vision was a perfect picture of how I felt: stuck, and bound. My arms were flailing about, but I was helpless to get anywhere for all my struggling. Years later, He would grant the understanding that, much like the butterfly must endure the cocoon, so I needed to endure the nurturing and development of the spiritual womb He had placed me in. I needed to be held and swaddled, wrapped tight and protected, until just the right time.
I remember learning, after all those years of frustration, that when a butterfly is released from a cocoon too early, the value of the struggle which develops its wings is lost. Without the struggle of the time spent in the cocoon, the butterfly will lack the strength it needs to fly, and thus to survive. Similarly, if I had broken free of God’s swaddling and launched myself into what I thought was my destiny back then, I would have surely seen the end too soon.
I laughed to myself at the vain struggle of my children to break free of their swaddling clothes then. But now I understand two things very clearly:
1 – The struggle is not in vain. We develop strength as we struggle to defy the limitations placed around us. And God allows that struggle, even smiles upon it at times. He knows it is a necessary part of our development, too. And like a loving father, He will bring gentle discipline when we push too hard. Like insistent children who don’t know what’s best for them, sometimes we fight just to fight, and need to be reminded who’s in charge. God is good at reminding us, lovingly.
2 – Struggle though we may, and the struggle being worth what it is, still God’s way is higher, and His muscles stronger. Maybe the struggle is not in vain, but surely it is futile. We will not win, because He has set His love upon us, and that love is committed to seeing us all the way to full development. He may entertain our flailing fists and wriggling legs, but He will not let us all the way free from the promises He has wrapped around us – until the appointed time has come.
I have a recent illustration of this truth: A friend was praying for me a few months back, as I was enduring a time of great distress. She began to quote the promises and declarations of Scripture, one after another, in her praying. And one by one, those promises became like pieces of a great quilt, knitted together, and the arms of God came to wrap me right up within it. For some reason, I writhed under her prayer. I wanted to fight, not rest. But the more she prayed, the more I couldn’t help but surrender. As promise after promise rang out from her lips, my fight slowly died, and I laid down in God’s embrace and felt as peaceful as a little baby whose fight was overcome by the rocking of a Momma’s arms.
I think, and I hope, you get the picture. There are times when we need to be wrapped up in swaddling clothes, held tight and prevented from flailing about and disturbing our own rest. But too often, we resist. We fight instead. It makes me tired just to think about the many times I’ve done it.
I wonder if we might take a deep breath right now and ask God to help us surrender to His wise and lovingly appointed times of rest? It might not seem fair, and it might not make sense that He calls us to stillness when there might be an abundance of activity all around that we would rather be a part of. But He, our Creator and our Nurturer, truly knows what’s best for us, at all times.
We can trust Him. And we will be a lot stronger, healthier and happier when we finally do!