Swaddling Cloths

Luke 2:12 “a sign  . . . a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”

You need to let God wrap you in spiritual bands of cloth, embracing you like a mammy wrapping her precious child—knowing you are God’s only begotten, divine Child.

Swaddling cloths were wound snugly around the baby as a simulation of the womb that had nurtured the infant for nine months.  Interestingly, the use of swaddling cloths has become a modern phenomenon as health care professionals recognize the benefits of keeping the infant bound in bands of cloth.

Think of yourself as a child; imagine yourself as infant, wrapped snugly in bands of cloth—similar to a mummy, your whole body wrapped—not too tightly but firmly enough that you feel safe and secure.

We have the responsibility of wrapping our new being in spiritual swaddling cloths.  Our new being comes to us as fragile and tender as a newborn—and needs special care—spiritual swaddling cloths of care.  We are both the new being and the one who has experienced the birthing pains.  Our swaddling cloths will need to take the form of whatever special care we recognize that we need which requires us to be attentive in a concentrated way.  Attentive to what will best serve the protection and care of our new little one.

When we find ourselves wrapping our God babe in swaddling clothes we show proof of our new birth.

Humpty’s Hard Shell

Humpty’s arrogance and self-confidence seem to come from his belief that his shell is durable enough to adequately protect him. And what about us? What makes our shell grow thicker and stronger? What makes us think we are adequately protected?

Life situations, where we might have felt vulnerable, might have felt hurt by someone’s penetrating criticism but where we were able to ignore or counter the attack, contribute to a thickening and strengthening of our shell. Our accomplishments help as well. Also our ability to cope and control.

Humpty convinces himself that the King will not allow harm to come to him. We, however, come to believe we don’t need a King to protect us. We have learned how to protect ourselves. We are invincible. And besides, we’ve been perched on our wall so long we’re certain we can keep ourselves from falling.

Remember, Humpty, like all eggs, if they have been fertilized, should develop into a new creature. In order to emerge from his shell, the chicken must be strong enough to force his way out. If he is not able to peck through his shell, he simply dies inside. No one comes to his aid. Another case of survival of the fittest.

And what about us? We cannot imagine wanting out of what we have worked so hard to establish. We can’t imagine destroying what we’ve worked so hard to harden. And if we did feel a yearning to peck our way out, we doubt our beaks would be strong enough to penetrate the impenetrable.

Something must happen to make us want to emerge and that same something must be the enabler as well as the catalyst. That something is found through the deep desire for something more.

Humpty’s Tall Wall

The Humpty Dumpty metaphor continues to intrigue me. In all the cartoons I’ve collected there is a wall. Either Humpty is sitting on top of it or he has fallen off and lies in pieces at its base.

In my research I find that Humpty Dumpty is the perennial favorite rhyme among pre-schoolers and older. Perhaps it is the rhythm of the rhyme or the rhyme itself—with its too-long last line. Perhaps it is the absurdity of an egg sitting on a wall—and the obvious understanding that eventually it will roll off. Perhaps it is the fact that the egg is always pictured as if it had human characteristics and could carry on a conversation. Whatever the appeal, we can ask any random child if he knows the rhyme and he’ll probably recite it.

In psychological terms, I argue that the wall represents the inevitable precipice that our psyche is forming all the time that we are establishing ourselves as competent humans in a world where competence is required

Competence and protection are our watchwords. We work to be able to function in the world and also harden our shell to protect ourselves. This shell-hardening begins early in childhood, at the moment we feel wounded by someone or something and subconsciously resolve to try to keep that from happening again.

Mine was the incident where I cried to keep my mother from leaving me when she took me to my Sunday School class right after my younger sister was born. I was three and a half. She stayed but was embarrassed, later told my father, and I was humiliated by the punishment. Something in my little psyche resolved at that moment not to cry, and for 40 years the hard shell I manufactured honored that resolve.

But the wall grows taller under us and the danger of falling increases. We’re so busy hardening our shell that we do not notice. Then one day perhaps we look down and are amazed. And the wall continues to grow taller.

This wall and the falling off it represents the crisis whereby the new being is hatched out.