Nesting—And Resting—In The Covering Of A Holy God
Jun 17, 2019 12:18PM
● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Sitting on the couch holding five warm infant bunnies in the palm of my hand was the best way to begin my Friday morning, in my opinion. Born just as my daughter was heading out to her final exams Wednesday morning, these pink-skinned squirmy bags of God’s creative genius have already grown before our eyes. And now, five tiny heartbeats in the palm of my hand, radiating heat from their mother’s cozy nest of fur and the closeness of each other’s bodies—there was nothing like it in this world. I felt as if God gave me a tiny glimpse of heaven and part of what went through His infinite mind when He designed the reproductive process so precisely for each species.
Prior to the birth, we worried that our lionhead bunny Sookie had a debatable personality for motherhood. She was extremely introverted and cranky (well, so am I, so what is that saying?) and not very cuddly in demeanor. And to be perfectly honest, she didn’t take to the mating process willingly at first. But after courting her husband Cloud for a while, she found the second mating process easier. They even shared a brief meal together before we placed her back in her own pen. And there she sat for the length of a second "attempted" gestation cycle, staring at us intently, already knowing she’d have the last laugh.
And truly she did.
It was only evening 29 of a 31-day gestation that we saw active signs of her preparing her nest. Normally a slob in every possible way, she fastidiously grabbed every piece of hay in sight and carried it with her mouth to the nesting box. She would get in and swirl it around into a perfect circle. Apparently she did this all night because all the orchard grass I put in the pen the night before had been arranged so carefully in the nesting box by morning.
By 6:30 AM, she was panting and chattering her teeth but otherwise not in distress. We figured she had a long night and was nervous about any spasms within her body. My daughter insisted on checking on her before leaving that morning, and after intense bouts of pulling out her own fur to prepare to cover her hairless babies, Sookie was sitting in the nest, one by one pulling a new baby out of her body and into this world. Five babies later, she was a newly minted quint mom!
After returning from driving my daughter to school, I was amazed to find Sookie out of the nest yanking more fur from her belly and methodically bringing it over to cover the new kits. It would be a few weeks before their own hair would grow in. They could not see yet, but they arrived plump and active. Sookie did not tend to a single one of her own needs until hours after the birth. I was completely fascinated watching her.
As it turns out, a mama rabbit sits on its hind legs over the nest to let the newborns nurse. She has to help arrange them so their little heads can reach up at the right angle. They feed about three minutes total, only three times a day, so the role of the humans in the house is to ensure that the babies are not wrinkled, their tummies are bulging, and there is evidence of bowel production. If they mew, it’s time to eat.
Sookie has changed my entire opinion of her as I watch her tend to her young. If we get too close to the babies when she has plans to care for them, she chatters at us as a proper warning. Meanwhile, Daddy Cloud is one pen over pacing and thumping. A few weeks need to go by before we let them hang out. A mother bunny is unpredictable when the male approaches her kits.
One of my favorite sensations is to feel their rapid heartbeats in my hand. I close my eyes and thank the Great Drummer, who sets the rhythm and each beat, who pumps blood throughout their little bodies after breathing life into them just 30 days ago.
But the image I am left with from this amazing experience as we officially establish our rabbitry through Sookie and Cloud is this:
How the female rabbits pull out their own hair to cover their young to keep them warm, safe, and sheltered
It didn’t take long for me to see the cross of Christ in this—how my God so loved His created people in this world that He gave His only Son that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
God loved us each so much that He covered us with His Son Jesus. We could not stand before a holy God with our sin. On our own, we could not come before Him because we are not pure and holy, not justified to spend eternity with Him.
So He pulled part of Himself out for us as a sacrifice. He sent Jesus to earth in the form of man (part God) to live and die for us.
Why did we need covering? Let’s look at what the Old Testament says about this: Our sins have led us to become a “polluted garment.”
Isaiah 64:3-6, ESV
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
The Bible says our sins cannot be covered by anything we do, but they can be covered by faith in the saving blood of Christ.
Romans 13:14, NIV
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Our ransom was paid by the “precious blood of Christ.”
1 Peter 1:18-21 ESV
...knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
When we stand before God the Father, because of what Jesus His Son has done for us, God sees us as white as snow.
Isaiah 1:18, ESV
"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
God did this to bring us unto Himself, to reunite us after the fall of Adam. He could not be in the presence of sin because of His holiness, and through Christ, the sacrificial Lamb (and the redemption of our ransom through His blood), God united “all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Ephesians 1:7-10, ESV
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Sookie’s God-given wiring, or instinct, compels her to tear out her belly hair, which pregnancy hormones loosened for that very purpose. She is protective of her kits, yes, but only because God created her to do so.
How much more powerful, then, is the love of a holy God who knows we lay in our nests at times naked, ashamed, and afraid, and yet He reached down through Jesus and covered us! Is that not amazing news?! He spilled the blood of His Son so that we can live forever safely and blessed in His “nest.”
Immanuel, God with us, is a real promise. It’s not just something we say at Christmas in an emotional moment. If you haven’t asked Him yet, let Jesus cover you today. Tell Him you need to be safe and secure under the covering of Christ and that you believe that He is your salvation.
I promise you it’s the very best place to be—resting in the covering of a holy God.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
A new rabbit breeder, she can also be found @thegivingrabbitry on Instagram.