The Gospel at Lent (according to The Velveteen Rabbit)

Was going through some newsletters
from the first church I served the other day…
and came across this article,
written about this same point in/during Lent:

I look forward in coming years to a bedtime ritual in which I can read bedtime stories to Katie [who was 5 months old at the time…  she’s crossed 30 years now…  where does the time go?!?!?].

I imagine such times will be truly meaningful and intimate.  I’ve already had a little practice in reading with nieces and I’ll admit I’ve done some private reading on the side to get extra “practice” for the future.

One of the books which I’ve met, and which has helped to give me a new perspective on children’s literature is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.  Listen for yourself:

“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, riot 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 you 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.”

In this season of Lent —
with its eyes looking towards Easter,
I pray, even amidst the hurts and losses of life,
that you become “Real”
through the grace and love of God
which we know in Jesus Christ.

[I produced a video of this passage a few years latter–
for use in worship at Strawbridge UMC in Kingwood.
I provide it here, below as another ways of engaging this classic…]

To be sure, I was not ready for a call that followed that newsletter’s publication:

“What do you mean I am not real?!” the bellicose and somewhat slurred voice said at the other end.  “Are you saying I’m not real?!”

Somewhere in here I tried to explain that compared to God’s ultimate hopes and plan for us all, none of us is real, all of us is becoming.  But he wouldn’t, he couldn’t hear any of it…

“Oh, you don’t have any idea what your talking about!”, he finally concluded (with a few choice words thrown in).  “Where to you get off saying I’m not real?!” and he hung up.

Fact is, he wasn’t real.
It went beyond the fact that
he was a practicing alcoholic –
something pretty well know
to the whole church
and surrounding community.

Fact is, it could have been a call
from anyone in the community
and I would have said… and still would say:
“you are not fully real,
you haven’t arrived,
God is not through with you yet!”

It’s a crucial confession to the season.
It hints at a most fundamental Christian virtue
which must prevail
throughout this season
and our Christian lives:
humility.

  • Humility: not to be confused with humiliation…
    but with a proper recognition and estimation
    of who we are and whose we are.
  • Humility: that essential move of dying to self,
    taking up the cross,
    and following Jesus.
  • Humility: that willingness to die to lesser things,
    confident of greater things to come.
  • Humility: deriving from the word “humus” (dirt),
    it’s a good word as we enter this season…
    “Human, remember that thou art humus, dust…
    and to dust you shall return.”
  • Humility: with it’s age-old questions…

Are you dying to live — really live?
Are you dying to become real?

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