The Velveteen You
One of the books I remember reading to my children was the Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. I cannot say it was one of the books we read on a regular basis or one of the books we would often grab to hear a favorite, though it was read a few times. I remember the book was on a separate shelf, as if it was a higher quality book with a special cover… you have a place for such books, don’t you? However, this book did not have one of those special covers or show any different quality in material than the rest of the children books. Yet, for some reason, the Velveteen Rabbit had a special spot.
Could it have been because of the story?
A boy receives a Velveteen Rabbit for Christmas. The other more expensive or mechanical toys immediately snub the stuffed animal, each considering themselves more real or more with it than the Velveteen Rabbit. Eventually, the Skin Horse tells the Rabbit a toy only becomes real if its owner really and truly loves it.
When the boy’s china dog is misplaced, the maid gives the Velveteen Rabbit to the boy as a quick replacement. The Velveteen Rabbit soon takes his place as the boy’s constant companion, receiving a good amount of wear because of it. No matter how shabby, the boy loves him and carries him everywhere, much to the dismay of the other toys.
In the woods near the boy’s home, the Velveteen Rabbit is dropped while the boy is playing, and has the chance to meet actual rabbits. The stuffed animal learns about the differences between himself and the real rabbits by his inability to hop, jump, or shed fur.
The climax of the story comes when the Velveteen Rabbit is separated from the boy and ready to be burned with the rest of the discarded toys. In this moment, filled with the emotion he felt from the boy’s love for him, the Velveteen Rabbit cries a real tear for his loss. This tear brings forth a fairy, who by the power of the boy’s love for the rabbit and the rabbit’s stored up emotion, changes the Velveteen Rabbit into a real one.
I am reminded of this book as I consider so many people in the past few weeks telling me they want to keep it “real”, or they want their relationship with God to be more “real”, or in some way using this word “real” to describe an emotional desire in their life. At this, I suddenly see the Gospel being presented in this children’s story.
When returning to the garden, we find Adam and Eve made in God’s image, complete and whole, having all they require. Yet, Adam’s disobedience separates us from God and there is a divide created between God and man, a wedge in the relationship. There is an absence in our state of being, an absence where the unity with God once existed.
Jesus speaks of bringing this unity and presence of being back to the relationship in His prayer, recorded in John 17:20-23. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Here we are, just like the Velveteen Rabbit, wanting to be real. Whether we recognize the craving or not, it is still there – and often, people will try to fill this need through other means, such as drinking, drugs, or denial. And, in the end, the only thing that made the Velveteen Rabbit real was the extreme love of the boy. Could it be all we need is to find this same sort of love for ourselves?
The One who loved us sacrificed everything so we could be Real.
Are you real? If not, email me and let me introduce you to the Boy.