To become real...?
Do you remember the beautiful children's tale, the Velveteen Rabitt, by Marjorie Williams? I am a lover of children's books and this is one of my favorites. Here's the Skin Horse advising the Rabbit one day about what it takes to become real...
"The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
When I was a young woman and all the hairs were silky and flowing and all the skin was milky white and soft and all the parts were in place and working just the way they were designed to work, I smiled a contented smile and thought that it would always be so. I looked with eyes of disdain on those poor creatures whose hair was falling out and bones were creaking and skin was sagging and wrinkled. For heaven's sake, what had they done to themselves to get in that condition?! Poor, pathetic creatures, were they! Youth is often like that. It cannot imagine what old age is like and it doesn't want to find out!
I wonder though, is the Skin Horse telling the truth to the Rabbit? Are there toys that lose their hair and break their parts and live a long, long time, and never become real? I think so. Mostly, I have always prayed, Lord, don't let that happen to me...
I don't remember exactly when it happened. I just know at some point along the way, I fell captive to the wooing love song of God. He was calling me to follow after Him - to settle for nothing less, to have a love affair with a Divine Suiter. He told me the truth. He said I would lose a lot. He told me it would hurt a lot. He said I'd have to trust Him, instead of myself. He said I would have to leave it all to belong to Him.
I wasn't so sure at first. I weighed the pros and cons. I so wanted my way. I was in love with the image of beauty I had envisioned for myself! Perfection! A beautiful dancing ballerina that everyone envied! But then, in the middle of the dance, I heard the whisper of Love calling me again to look for something infinitely more priceless. "Don't settle for a masquerade," He whispered. "You were made for something wonderful! You were made for LOVE."
Skin Horse said it would take a long, long time. It has. He said I might get hurt. I have. He said I probably wouldn't recognize myself when it finally happened. I would look in the mirror and wonder who it was that was looking back at me. He was right! He said it would take a lifetime to learn to be real. I'm still working at it...
Yes, my hair has almost all been loved off, my eyes are almost ready to drop out, I am loose in the joints and I'm looking pretty shabby. But, the truth is, I don't mind at all. The One Who promised to love me, has kept me. He has very carefully kept me... And I don't mind that at all...
"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."
Jeremiah 31:3 NIV