One of my favorite childhood stories is The Velveteen Rabbit. The rabbit was given to the boy as a Christmas present one year. In the course of time the rabbit learns what it is to become real. The oldest and wisest toy in the nursery, the Skin Horse, tells the rabbit what it means to be real. He says, “It doesn’t happen all at once, 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.” The rabbit longs to be loved by the boy so that he too can become real.
I never heard this story when I was a child but instead when I was a teenager at summer camp. My counselor, Nancy, used it for devotion one night and I was captivated by the story. I was sixteen at the time and worked hard at having perfect hair, clear skin and great clothes. I assumed that if I worked hard enough at being perfect that I would be loved by everyone. Only it wasn’t working out for me. I still felt alone and empty. I wondered what it would be like to love and be loved so much that it would not matter what I looked like on the outside, I would only be concerned about giving and receiving love on the inside. It was the beginning of a long journey.
Now I’m on the other side of fifty and I’m still on the journey! Luckily I have learned a few important lessons:
- My worth is in my inward being
- To be lovely means to be kind, compassionate and caring
- God created me beautiful (you tooJ)
“‘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.’”
It does seem to be taking a long time but the beauty of life in Christ is that nothing separates me from God’s love. Even when I mess up and do a non-beautiful thing, even when I choose to focus on my outward self instead of my inward being, even when I find myself caught in the mess of sin I am still considered beautiful by God. This Lent I’ve decided to try and be the beautiful person God created me to be. I’m trying to be my real self, the one made in the image of God.