When I was a child I loved reading The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams 1922). It’s a story about a child’s toy that longs to be ‘Real.’
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “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 often happen 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.”
I think this story touches on the heart of our deepest longing. That is to be loved unconditionally even in our ‘shabbiness.’ We want to be known intimately and still accepted in our brokenness. We want to be so real to someone that we are always beautiful, even when our hair turns grey and our skin starts to sag.
In the Bible we’re told that ‘His love endures forever’ (Psalm 136:2); that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of Christ’ (Romans 8:38 & 39); that ‘God loved us so much he gave his one and only son’ (John 3:16).
He Loves us.
We are told that ‘even the very hairs of our head are numbered’ (Matthew 10:30); that He ‘knew us even before we were formed in the womb’ (Jeremiah 1:5); that He knows ‘when we sit and when we rise,’ and ‘perceives our thoughts from afar.’ (Psalm 139:2).
He knows us.
We are told we are ‘the salt of the earth and the light of the world’ (Matthew 5: 13 & 14); a ‘chosen people’ (Peter 2:9); designed for ‘Gods handiwork’ (Ephesians 2:10); ‘co-heirs with Christ’ (Romans 8:17); ‘Chosen’ (John 15:16).
We are Real.
The Skin Horse explaining to the Rabbit what it means to be real is a great metaphor for God’s life transforming love for us. Like the Skin Horse, I never felt Real until I knew the One who made me that way.
I guess that’s why I loved that story so much.