With a New Year upon us, certain things vowed to begin and others committed to coming to an end, the following is for you. If you’ve thought about making some changes in your life in the way of thinking, acting, believing or interacting; I believe there’s a healthy way to approach such bold and daring endeavors. Swaddle. Allow me to explain…
I read an amazing analogy recently pertaining to beliefs, thinking and ways we look at the world. It further speaks to the way we see Jesus, the way we read the Bible and the way we interact with others around us. It was an amazing illustration that the deep thinker and analogist in me wishes I would’ve come up with. Swaddle. If you’ve had babies or heard the story of the birth of Christ (laid in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes), you’re familiar with swaddle.
Shane Hipps, in his book “Selling Water by the River”, (which I can’t recommend enough) describes how swaddling is beneficial, comforting and even necessary for a baby. It provides security, certainty and protection from the world outside. The time period that the baby will allow to be swaddled varies from child to child. But eventually, the child breaks out of the swaddling, the protection and comfort, and must learn to grow and thrive on her own.
Much the same is true for our faith. We’ve all been given certain beliefs, doctrines and dogmas to live by. Whether it’s from our parents, pastors, culture or friends; we all have a belief system that we find comfortable, secure and protective. The interesting thing about this analogy is the fact that the thing we find brings us safety and stability is also the same thing that can suffocate, stagnate and stunt our growth.
We all, at different times and through different experiences, must learn to shed our particular swaddle. Some may decide to break free earlier while others are more comfortable waiting. The importance (and I’m learning and working at this as hard as anybody) is to not begrudge or vilify someone who hasn’t taken that step. Theologically speaking, it’s difficult for me to understand particular ways of interpreting scripture, viewing Jesus and interacting with our wider world when they are vastly different than my own. But I’m coming to realize, everyone is at different stages of unraveling the swaddling.
Please don’t misunderstand me, no one ever “arrives” or figures out the vast depths of life. And I’m convinced we won’t only rid ourselves of our swaddle once in our lifetime. We’re all in a state of flux where the ebbs and flows of life carry us in different directions. We embrace, keep or shed the boundaries we have depending on our beliefs and experiences. The importance is in the delineation between believing and knowing.
Beliefs are formed off general ideations and theories. Knowing comes from experiencing. What do I mean by this? I can tell you all about how beautiful Lake Tahoe is. (And trust me, it’s awesome.) The massive evergreens, the peaks and valleys, the waterfalls and the pristine lake itself. But unless you’ve been there, you can only believe that it’s as phenomenal as I can paint it to be. If you know exactly what I’m talking about, you’ve been there. You’ve experienced it. You know that no amount of explaining, no picture or description can do justice.
Our ever growing, expanding, deepening and transforming faith is the same. I can tell you the things that have been revelation. I can pass along things I’ve read. I could discuss the ways in which my rethinking has impacted the way I live and interact with everything around me. However, no amount of conveying these things or expectations that could be placed upon you will be the same as knowing and experiencing for yourself. And nothing will be more profound and lasting than the knowing that you experience.
Being secure, comfortable, safe and unchallenged are all good feelings. But we must realize that at some point, we’ll outgrow these things. At some point, the thing that was meant to keep us in, will prevent us from growing out, growing up and growing in Jesus. Not all swaddle must be cast to the side, though, relegated to invaluable and unnecessary. (Though some may be.) The growing and the maturity comes from the balancing act; deciding which swaddle goes into a box and which we can recycle as a blanket.