One of my favorite stories is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. It's the fanciful tale of toys in a nursery talking and relating to each other. BUT it's so much more! It's a wonderful parable of life - particularly for a Christian. It's all about being REAL! What is more real than living to "look like Jesus" to the watching world? If that's not real, then it's not the real thing!
Here's my favorite section from The Velveteen Rabbit:
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
"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 happen often 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."
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.
But the Skin Horse only smiled.
Being real?! Yes, it does hurt! Sometimes it hurts a lot!
Being real?! Yes, sometimes I do mind - to be perfectly truthful - 'cause it hurts - sometimes it hurts a lot!
Being real?! Yes, it takes a long, long time!
Being real?! Yes, it's hard because it is risky! Being real isn't for the faint of heart! Being real truly isn't for people who break easily or who have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept!
Being real?! Yes, it's true - by the time you get to really be real, you - much like the skin horse - are old and bald in patches with seams showing and most of the hairs in your tail pulled out to string bead necklaces or something. You are also - most probably - loose in the joints and very shabby! It costs to be real!
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. Well, that may be true in the nursery when Nana isn't around but in life it's a bit different:
In life it's hard for it not to matter when people don't understand!
In life it's hard to grow old and ugly and be misunderstood after all that!
In the story, the frisky little rabbit looks at the old, worn-out skin horse and blithely says, I suppose you are real? And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
In life it's hard to smile when others don't understand! Sometimes we have to ask God to draw a smile from deep in our hearts.In the story the Skin Horse is real so he smiles and isn't sensitive at all. In life it's often a bit more complicated because being real in life is more than a story. It's a lifetime of living and loving and getting your hair loved off and getting loose in the joints and very shabby! In life it really costs to be real! AND it's hard not to be sensitive. It is also hard to smile sometimes but you know you are REAL if you can still smile and not be too sensitive!
The truth is that Jesus came because He is the most REAL anyone can ever be. He really, really "got all his hair loved off and loose in the joints and very shabby" as He literally put on our skin and moved into our neighborhood. (John 1:14, The Message) He calls those who bear His name to follow Him in the process of becoming real and being real in a world where real is very, very hard to find!