The Velveteen Christian

What is Real? asked the Rabbit one day…

Our world is made up of a constant cacophony of voices. Truth, lies, myths, imaginations, and opinions fill our world with dissidence and confusion. We have information overload. It is difficult to discern who can be trusted because of the spin, the agendas, the omitted facts or the inserted insinuations that twist and distort.

I grew up during the sex revolution. A whole generation believed that being real was living without restraints. Getting what you wanted, as much as you wanted, whenever you wanted it. No strings attached defined love for those who bought into the free love movement.

Easter is coming soon and as I prepare my heart to celebrate the greatest love the world has ever known; I have been meditating on love. The Lord reminded me of my favorite story, the Velveteen Rabbit. I reflected on the conversation between Horse and Rabbit about becoming real.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, . . . “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.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

I want to be real. I want the children I teach to want to be real. I don’t want us to be those followers of Christ who break easily, have sharp edges, who need to be carefully kept.

“Remember,” Jesus said at the Last supper. We need to do just that. We need to remember our Savior who loved us so much that He stepped out of eternity and into time. He took on human flesh. Determined to show us how much we were loved, He spread out both arms. Not to get a big self-satisfying hug, but to take our place, not just tolerate our sin, He took it as His own and was punished in our place.  

We need to remember one of the last lessons He taught: “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34 The NET Bible

Too many people today, especially children, believe they can decide what is real, that it is self-determined. Whether they believe it or not doesn’t change the fact that God is real. Jesus is real. Heaven and Hell are real. Jesus proved it by His incarnation, His death, His resurrection. His REAL love changed history forever.

What does it mean for us to be real?  When a child of God REALLY loves for a long, long time, not just to ask for stuff or know about, or have fun but REALLY loves with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, out of the joy of being loved and loving God, then we become Real.

You might ask how does one love God?  We can’t hug Him with our arms or kiss Him with our lips. Few have even spoken to Him face to face. As physical beings our love must be physically expressed. God tells us exactly how to express our love to Him.

1 John 4:20-21 says,, “… the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian…” (NET Bible)

Learning how to love one another is what makes us real. It won’t happen all at once. To become real could take a life time. For most of us by the time we are real most of our hair will have been loved off, and our eye sight will drop off. We will get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things won’t matter at all, because once we are REAL we can’t be ugly, except by those who do not understand what it takes to be real.  

Suzi Ciliberti works for Christar, a Missions Agency that plants churches among least-reached Asians worldwide. She served in Japan for two years as a single missionary and another nine with her husband and two children, then the family returned to the states. She and her husband have been serving in the US Mobilization Center since 2000. As a part of the Member Care Department, Suzi is consultant to families with children. She has been working as a children’s teacher since she was 17 and began her training under Child Evangelism Fellowship. She has taught in the church, as a school teacher for two years in a Christian elementary school, and as a speaker for adults training to work with children. She has also trained children, who are a part of families that work overseas, in their identity in Christ. She brings 44 years of teaching experience to her work. She loves creative writing as well as teaching and has found great fulfillment in combining the two as she blogs for Heartprints. She finds it a great privilege and joy to serve the Lord and His people. One of her favorite verses is Deuteronomy 4:10b, "Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children."

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