“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 often happen 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.”
~from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco
“I just want it to get better!” I shouted to my best friend on the phone as I drove home from a long weekend away with friends. I had just shared with him that despite my list-making, ceaseless worrying, and long-range planning, I couldn’t shake the loneliness and uncertainty that had invaded my heart and mind the as I settled into a new community. Everything was in flux and I was just tired of it. It was scary and—although I am fortunate to have some pretty indefatigable friends—I’m sure exhausting to hear about. I didn’t want to face the uncomfortable but relentless questions confronting me—questions such as: How did you get here? Why are you here? Why do you fail to trust your instincts but readily give allegiance to others? What would it mean to shed your old, safe, and familiar identity, for one that dreamed wild, crazy dreams—dreams you know you are meant to live?
After this latest outburst, my friend calmly replied to me, “It’s tough isn’t it? We all want our Red Sea moments. We want God to part the water or do something great, but we don’t realize that we have to allow ourselves to be in over our head first.”
His words pierced me to the core. It wasn’t that he was saying suffering was my destiny or that I needed to suffer, but he was calling me to consider that I wouldn’t be able to get to the other side of the dis-ease—to the settled shore—unless I was willing to confront the tough questions I had been avoiding.
To be able to build a home on the scenic side of the shore often demands that we confront the lies we have told ourselves and the one others have told us. We have to be willing to shed the safe and comfortable in order to escape from the myopic living that has unknowingly imprisoned our souls and imaginations. Like the Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit, becoming real “doesn’t happen all at once. It takes a long time.” Sometimes “long” is a week, sometimes it’s more than a year. However long it takes, becoming real cannot be avoided. And like the wise Skin Horse reminds us: when you are real, no one else’s perception of you matters because you know who you are and whose you are: God’s beloved.
Imagine crossing to the other side of the river shore. What does it take for your soul to get there?