I’m Real!!

Posted on 2006-12-23. Filed under: Thoughts |

Today I read to my son the classic book The Velveteen Rabbit. As I read it to him, a couple of passages struck me.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. It takes a long, long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to toys that break easily, or who have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept. When a child REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“I suppose you are REAL?” asked the Rabbit.
The Skin Horse smiled. “The Boy’s uncle made me Real many years ago,” he said. “And once you are Real, you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

That made me think of something that happened to me today. After going to a walking park near my parent’s house, I decided to stop at a downtown pawn shop. I wanted to see what musical instruments they had that might work well for my son and what handguns they had available. After leaving the pawn shop for my parent’s house, I drove through West End. I came to a four-way stop at the top of a hill where another car was already stopped at the intersection. We were one block away from a corner that was very “active” when I lived here. I waved the other car to make its left-turn around my truck and as the driver did so, he gave me a look that took me back over ten years. He looked kinda familiar so I don’t know if he knew me or not. But, he gave me a look that I haven’t seen for a while. I guess that means I’ve been living a sheltered life for quite some time now. I could tell when he looked at me that he did not care if I lived or died. To him, I was not a person – just a potential obstacle. There was absolutely no feeling in the look he gave me, just cold calculation.

It’s a look that I encountered a lot in a prior life and one that I carried with me almost everywhere I went. It was part of my survival toolkit. I always likened it to the posturing that animals do. If you can scare a potential threat early, you can neutralize their threat. Once you inject fear or wondering or confusion into them, you cause them to act hesitatingly unless they are pathological. For normal people, this fear or confusion will give you time to maneuver. For crazy people, it will make them more likely to attack you.

As he drove around me, I immediately recalled what my reaction to that would have been and I found myself observing my reaction now. This all happened very quickly. I felt very sad for him and prayed that God would break into his heart because I knew how empty it was. I was also very thankful that God had done that for me. He filled an emptiness in my heart and changed me. He made me Real. And now, I can’t become unreal again. It will last for always.

As I read the story, another passage leapt out at me:

And so time went on. The little Rabbit was so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier, and his tail was coming unsewn, and all the pink was rubbing off his nose where the Boy kissed him.

This is describing the Rabbit’s path to becoming Real. I believe that people who become Real in this manner will carry wear; they will have scars and mars, and tears from snares. I can relate to the Rabbit’s testimony. It reminded me of Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28:

Are they servants of Christ?–I speak as if insane–I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

Becoming Real is not an easy path. But it is a path that you do not walk alone. And it is the only path worth walking. Some struggles you encounter along the path are physical. Some are mental; some spiritual, financial, relational. But God is using all of them to work on us and create in us a new spirit. I think this is the meaning of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

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