What is REAL?
Recently, I was reminded of one of my favorite childhood books. Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit is about a stuffed rabbit who belongs to a little boy. He wants to be Real, but doesn’t quite know what that means. So one day he asks the Skin Horse, “What is REAL?” The Skin Horse replies that when a child “REALLY loves you, then you become real.” I think the Rabbit’s next question is even more telling,“Does it hurt?”
In our culture, “Keep it real” has become a popular catch-phrase. But how often do we actually do it? How often are we truly real, authentic, open, and honest withpeople? As the Skin Horse tells the Rabbit, “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.” When we’re real with people, we have to take off thatglossy, air-brushed exterior we like to show the world. Being real means we have to let stuff we aren’t proud of hang out, let the pain and the brokenness be seen by someone else. When we’re living authentically, we let people see beneath the surface of our lives to the lumps, tears and stains.
The narrator tells us that the Rabbit “wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.” Like the Rabbit, I think we’re a little scared of the price of being Real. But there’s also hope, because the thing that transforms us from the way we are into REAL is love. And the Skin Horse assures us that “once you are Real, you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
The process that the Rabbit must go through to become REAL is a lot like the process Christians go through called “Sanctification.” We are justified and saved (legally declared innocent) when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Once this happens we start the process of sanctification, which means becoming more and more like Christ. It’s a hard process, and it’s definitely not comfortable, but the results are eternal. As our lives begin to reflect Christ’s life more and more, we become more and more the way God intended us to be. And as this happens andwe find our identities in Christ alone, we actually become more REAL in our everyday lives. If we’re becoming what God intended and find our identity in Christ alone, then we don’t have to worry about whether the cool kids like us or whether that cute guy in chemistry thinks we’re smart and pretty. As we are sanctified, we are freed to live life in an open, honest, authentic, and REAL way.
The boy did love the Rabbit until he became REAL. God will love us until we are holy and sanctified and real. Will you let him?
In Him, Carrie