As a child, I disliked The Velveteen Rabbit. Even though the beloved stuffed rabbit was rescued and turned into a real rabbit, it grieved me that the Boy did not grieve his loss. I would not have so easily relinquished my stuffed friends, I said to myself, indignant.
Now I am no longer a child, and I know that we outgrow things we once could not imagine living without. What fondness I feel for the treasures of my childhood is rooted in nostalgia, no longer in love or need. So now I can read The Velveteen Rabbit with calm rationality, as I did the other day.
I was electrified by a particular passage:
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“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.”
There is an Easter message here.
God’s love makes us Real.
And being loved, becoming Real, hurts.
I want to be Real. To God. With others.
When I am Real, I am not stuffed and sitting on a shelf.
When I am Real, I am full of life and love and pain and my joints are loose and I am shabby and disheveled, but it does not matter, because I am Real.
Outside nursery magic, the only way for me to become Real is to accept the life-giving love of my Creator and love Him deeply in return. Obey Him, serve Him, follow Him. And sometimes it hurts.
Real is risky; stuffed looks safe—but I choose to be Real, because then I am loved and can love in return.