When a Season is Like a Straitjacket

October 5, 2011

in The Good Word,The Parenthood

We are firm believers in the swaddle. Any clue what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the baby swaddle — the thing you do with a blanket, where you put it beneath a baby, put their arms down by their sides and wrap the blanket tightly around them, tucking it underneath so that it constrains them and holds them snug. At first it might seem like an unpleasant thing for the baby, constraining them with the baby version of a straitjacket, but by and by perhaps I’ll convince you that it’s a good thing.

Something you may or may not know about newborns is that when they’re fresh out of the box, so to speak, they have absolutely no control over their arms or legs. Maybe very little control, but it seems pretty much like none. They hit themselves in the head and wonder who did it. They scratch their own little faces with their sharp little baby nails, and then cry as if to say, “Who’s scratching me? Stop it!”

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With the Bear, and again with the Tank, we found swaddling a really effective method of sleep training. Wrapping them up tightly inside a blanket or a thin sheet (when it was summer and too hot for a blanket) became a signal to them that it was time for a snooze. A swaddle, a pacifier/dummy/binker/whateveryouliketocallit in the mouth, a snug spot in the crib and they don’t need much more direction for the route to dreamland. Apparently it also mimics the feeling of being snuggled up inside the womb, which is a bonus.

Initially, both of our boys fought the swaddle.

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You’d wrap them up snug and they’d wriggle and squirm and sometimes cry. The Hubs often stood by their cribs, holding each of them to his chest, firmly swaddled, and he’d gently swoosh them back and forth while they struggled against his firm grip. Eventually, it {almost} always settled them down, and once they learned that it was a cue, it became a tool for good.

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I believe there are seasons in our lives when God “swaddles” us. For one reason or another, His hand is holding us firmly in one place, even though we feel like we’re ready for movement, for breakthrough, for a chance to use the arms and legs we’ve been given.

You might feel swaddled:

  • By a job you’re ready to be out of, but the job hunt is getting you nowhere.
  • By your finances constraining you and hindering your movements
  • In a relationship with a roommate, a professor, a colleague at work — you’re ready for it to be done, but you’re stuck for now.
  • In a season of life that’s just hard, but not over yet.

The thing is, sometimes we’re kind of like the newborn flailing her arms because she doesn’t know any better. God in His graciousness is appointing this time and this season, as a time for growth, perhaps a time for us to rest, a time to learn to trust Him, and a time to gain strength.

Most of us know that a beautiful butterfly doesn’t start out that way. They start out as little caterpillars, not particularly exciting creatures, definitely incapable of flying. But after munching on leaves for a good wee while, their metamorphosis begins. And during the pupa, or “chrysalis” stage, growth and differentiation occur. The caterpillar is becoming a butterfly.

The hard skin that surrounds the butterfly, called a chrysalis, keeps it swaddled until this life phase is finished. Once the butterfly is ready to shed the chrysalis, she uses her wings to break through. The strength that she gains while pushing her way out with her wings is a necessary part of the process. Once she’s out, she’ll sit on her old shell, harden her wings and get ready for take off!

Without the chrysalis stage, the butterfly will only ever be a caterpillar. But if she allows the process to do its good work, she will emerge on the other side, strong enough to fly.

If you’re in a season that feels like a straitjacket, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to sit still. You are a part of the process that will grow you and help you become who you are meant to be. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk to attach itself to a leaf or a twig, and then it sheds its skin to reveal that chrysalis layer — the hardened skin underneath. Some butterflies are able to move their abdomen while inside their chrysalis to make sounds or scare away potential predators.

Isaiah 30:18 says:

Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.

Trust the God who created the seasons as a part of life — the God who is also sovereign over them. Though it seems like He is waiting, He is being gracious. Though it seems like He isn’t listening, He is showing mercy. Like a year of work at a pawn shop, or a week of extra waiting for a baby’s arrival, the Author and Finisher of your faith has blessings in store for those who wait on Him. And in the waiting, you’ll gain the strength you need for the road ahead.

xCC

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

laura anne October 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm

thanks for this Caroline, this is most appreciated encouragement.
laura anne recently posted..Back in the Girl Guides

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Caroline October 7, 2011 at 3:53 am

So glad, LA! xo

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Matt Jenkins October 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Hey Caroline,
Thanks for your post. Appreciated hearing what you had to say. I have been feeling kind of like this recently with my job situation concerning some specific circumstances, and deciding if I should get another one or stay where I am. It has gotten a lot better now so I am grateful for that. I just continue to trust in Him. Hope you guys are doing well and it has been a smooth adjustment for you living back in the States.

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Caroline October 7, 2011 at 3:56 am

You are so welcome, Matt. I am glad this meant something to you, and I pray the Lord will give you the wisdom and discernment to know if this is a season for staying in the chrysalis or if it’s time to stretch your wings and go after something new. Keep trusting Him, but don’t be afraid to make a move, either. In Him you have everything you need for life and godliness! We are well — I wish Texas and North Carolina weren’t so far apart, because it would be great to see you and Gina!!

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se7en October 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Oh you are speaking to my heart – again!!! God sets his limits for a reason and we just chomp to break free!!! And do I chomp!!! Thank you!!!

We just got back from an awesome trip to Lesotho – I have no idea where to start blogging about it – but so excited… Our family can do mission trips!!! Even without a car (we were leant one) and severely cash strapped (supporters rushed in just in time)… God turned our mountains into molehills and we just learnt and learnt about His glorious goodness!!!
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Caroline October 15, 2011 at 4:52 am

Can’t wait to get a few peaceful moments to browse around and here the Lesotho adventure stories! I’ve already seen a little and was following on Twitter. I’m just so happy for you guys! So glad to hear mountains were turning into molehills for you all! God is so good!

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Terrie October 14, 2011 at 9:43 pm

First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Kudos!
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Caroline October 15, 2011 at 4:55 am

Interesting question Terrie! To be honest, I usually start writing by reading. Most of my inspiration comes from reading the Bible and thinking about what it means and how I should be applying the truth to how I live my life. So it is kind of a centrepoint for me — rather than emptying the mind I feel like I’m filling it with the right things and clearing it of the distractions that aren’t so important! If it’s not a book you’ve read so much in the past I highly recommend it! :) Starting in Mark’s gospel might be a good place!

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Sandpiper October 15, 2011 at 4:37 am

I needed to read this today. Thank-you for your well written post. Sometimes God leads us to what we need by what we click on!
Sandpiper recently posted..Still Around…

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Caroline October 15, 2011 at 4:55 am

I’m so glad this meant something to you today! Blessings for the adventure ahead of you!

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