“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.”
A couple days ago, Lydia and I were reading The Velveteen Rabbit. As I read those words to her, tears toppled over my eyelids. I remember my grandmother reading those same words over and over to me, and I thought about my own sweet girl and her beloved pink kitty cat with the faded fabric and tattered tail. This world glamorizes new and shiny, glossy and first edition. But Love isn’t slick or polished or gleaming. Love is messy and dirty and bloody and ragged. And the greatest example of Love left heaven to enter our mess, hung on a cross to save us and rose from the dead to give us victory. This weekend I will celebrate Love that changed my life. Love that changed my marriage. Love that changed my parenting. Love that changed my every interaction in life.
I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look like I’m a well-preserved version of my twenty-year-old self. I want to look like Love, and that means I’m going to keep getting messy. Messy looks like vulnerability and facing fear and pressing on. It looks like seeing people for their heart and their place in God’s Great Story. Messy looks like pain and sacrifice and holding on to hope. Messy looks like Love.
We chase beauty that can be bought in a jar or a syringe, but nothing is more beautiful than Love poured out. Christ entered our mess, our struggles and temptations, our pain and tears, our everything. And He entered our death so that we could be free to live. And free to get messy showing others how much He Loves.
Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life; scared to death of death.
It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself–all the pain, all the testing–and would be able to help where help was needed.
Hebrews 2:14-18, The Message