I hope you won’t mind, but for this post I want to use a story as a sort of personal reflection on a theme dear to my own heart – the Father-heart of God. In the midst of a cold January spell of weather, I hope it will come as a cordial to warm us from the inside.
Oh Dear !
Just take a look at this rather sad looking toy rabbit. Nothing much to notice really – hardly deserves a second glance. It looks rather shabby, worn and neglected, unlike the other toys around which look shiny and new, fresh from their Christmas-wrapped boxes.
However, first appearances can be deceptive, as we will soon see:
The Velveteen Rabbit
A few years ago I came across a delightful children’s story book. We used to read it to our own children and we loved it as much as they.
The story is about a small boy whose favourite toy is a much-loved and much played-with toy rabbit. The rabbit is taken to bed with him every night, and, though there are many other newer toys in the toy box, this old, well-worn and much-loved rabbit is always the preferred bedside companion.
One night ……….
“The Velveteen Rabbit turned to the old, wise Skin Horse in the nursery, and asked ‘What is Real? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’
The Skin Horse 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.
‘Does it happen all at once , or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse, ‘You become. It takes a long time generally, and by the time you are Real most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get very shabby….but once you are Real you cannot become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
(from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams- Published by Heinemmen 1922)
Like that velveteen rabbit we were made to be loved. In fact we don’t discover our true self (become ‘real’) until we realise that we are loved by God who has made us for himself. That discovery makes a profound difference to the way we live and think about ourselves and God.
The Bible puts it like this:
‘Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvellously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!…’
Part of Psalm 139 from ‘The Message Bible’
How do we become ‘Real’ too?
We become real when, like that shabby toy rabbit, we are back where we belong in those warm, welcoming arms of the Creator God who has made us and wants to love us deeply. However, Divine love does not come cheaply. This is how much it did actually cost:
‘The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’
From the Letter to the Galatians chapter 2 v 24
That’s my story too. As the old skin horse said, “once you are Real, you cannot become unreal again. It lasts for always.” – the Bible agrees !