Friday, March 09, 2012

What is Real?


I read The Velveteen Rabbit for the umpteenth time the other day. It has been a favorite of mine since childhood, and now Special K loves to read it too. C. S. Lewis was right: some day we do get old enough to read fairy tales again. Margery Williams’ story is about a stuffed toy bunny who arrives in a young boy’s stocking at Christmas. Over a period of time, the toy bunny embarks on a journey of transformation from merely a synthetic stuffed animal into a real, living, breathing rabbit. This change is brought about through the power of the boy’s transforming love for the Velveteen Rabbit.

It strikes me that the transformation from being a stuffed toy bunny to becoming a real rabbit is not unlike our transformations from broken and fallen creations of God to the new creatures we become through the love of Christ. Or should we say, the new creatures we are becoming through the love of Christ?

One of the paradoxes of Christianity that I constantly overlook surrounds the mystery of our transformation through faith in the love of Christ as an ongoing and never ending process rather than a one time event. Billy Graham has said that “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” The process of transformation, then, is an ongoing attempt to give up ourselves, to “continue to work out our salvation” as Paul exhorts us in Philippians.

C. S. Lewis observed that “Until (we) have given up (our)selves to Him, (we) will not have a real self.” And while this perpetual process is often uncomfortable, Augustine reminds us that “Salvation is God’s way of making us real people.” Like the protagonist of The Velveteen Rabbit, sometimes it is difficult for us to know when we become Real people of Christ, transformed by his love.

“’What is Real?’ asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day. . . . ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’”

The Skin Horse, the oldest and the wisest of the playthings in the nursery replied, “‘Real isn’t how you are made. 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?’ the Rabbit asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. . . . 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 become unreal again. It lasts for always.’” (Williams)

May the love of Christ continue to make us Real in a world that longs to become transformed.