What Is Real?

Velveteen RabbitDefinition of worn (adj)

worn
 [ wawrn ]

showing effects of wear: weakened or frayed by use

showing effects of fatigue: showing the effects of fatigue, worry, illness, or age

hackneyed: used so much as to have lost meaning

Synonyms: damaged, shabby, tatty, dog-eared, dilapidated, tattered, worn out, threadbare
The first definition of the word “worn” reminded me of a story. A story I read as a child. A story I’ve read to my children. A story that still astounds me with its deep wisdom. Though it is for children, it is for bigger people too … like you and me.
Here’s the part of the story that I have a hard time reading to my kids without getting a little bit choked up inside. You see, I sometimes feel worn. But I guess it isn’t always a bad thing.
     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.”
[From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams]

Worthy and Loved

[Reblogged from Jason Gray’s blog: Remind Me Who I Am]

 

My mother recently told me about a moving moment from the T.V. show “America’s Got Talent.” She told me about this eleven-year-old girl, small in stature and unassuming, who blew the celebrity judges away with her amazing performance and won their highest praise. Backstage, she was asked why this was such an exciting and emotional moment for her.

She replied, “Well, it’s that these amazing people think I’m good, too.”

To be highly regarded by somebody important to you: it’s heady and humbling at the same time. For a moment at least, it silences the voice of fear that is always making a case for our unworthiness. You feel seen. It can make a difference.

Today marks the release of the first radio single from my upcoming record, A Way To See In The Dark. The song is called “Remind Me Who I Am” and has an origin story that might interest Rabbit Roomers.

For the last few years my journey has circled around the idea of identity, where we find it, and why it matters. Our resident expert on the issue of identity here in the Rabbit Room is Ron Block, whose posts and comments are fragrant with the hope of the new creation alive and available to each of us. He knew something that I want to know, and so I wanted to talk with him.

It had been on my mind to give him a call for several months already when, sitting on a plane in Seattle one night in January, I watched him board. Not only is Ron a really kind and intelligent guy, but he also happens to be in one of the most accomplished bands in the world, Alison Krauss’s Union Station. Heck, he even made an appearance in one of my favorite movies: “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. So when he spotted me, smiled, and said “I’m sitting by you!” I guess I felt a little like the girl from America’s Got Talent – “Ron Block wants to sit by me?” I thought to myself.

It all had the whiff of a divine appointment, and thanks to Southwest Airline’s open seating policy, Ron was soon seated next to me and for the next three hours I got an education that brought some clarity to my understanding of myself and the way the human heart works. Much of what inspired this song grew from that conversation.

The idea I absorbed in my formative years was that I sin because of my willful disobedience. And while that may be true in part, another truth is that most, if not all, of the time I really don’t want to sin, so that I do so seemingly against my own will. Or as the apostle Paul famously said, “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway…” ( The Message)

So sin begins to look more like addiction than anything else, as though there is a ravenous hunger deep inside of me that demands to be fed. What is that hunger, I wonder?

Genesis chapter three tells us that one of the first consequences of sin entering the world is that the ground would be cursed, that we would eat by the sweat of our brow and the soil would produce weeds and thistles. This carries in it the idea of futility: that our efforts are frustrated, that no matter what we do, we feel it’s never enough – that perhaps we are never enough.

The constant, nagging fear that we don’t and never will measure up is like a pebble in our shoe that troubles every step of our journey. Surely this is the curse.

We can’t live under the oppression of inadequacy long before we start looking for ways to escape the shame and loneliness of it, and things go from bad to worse as we flee from the curse by running to things we hope will make us feel loved, desirable, and worthy.

We run to affairs. We surround ourselves with symbols of status that we hope will convince us of our worth. We escape into the fantasy world of pornography where for a moment we can imagine ourselves desired and wanted with no risk of rejection. We flee to workaholism determined to prove our value – our life and vocation shaped by a fear of failing. We hide in the bottle. We turn inward and refuse to risk disappointing those we love by withholding ourselves from them.

But of course all of these desperate grabs for significance leave us worse off than we were before — more empty, more ashamed, and with more regret.

If only we could learn to run to Christ, the one who calls us his beloved, his bride, the child that he chose to welcome into his family. We would hear him tell us that we are enough because he says so. We would hear him call us his treasure, and we would come alive.

There is that parable where Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God being like a man who, having found a treasure in a field, sold everything he had in order to buy the field and gain the treasure. I was always taught that I was the man in the story who needed to give up everything in order to “gain” the Kingdom of God. But our own Andrew Peterson pointed out to me years ago that in the other parables surrounding this one, the “man” in the story was always God. What if God cast himself as the man in this parable, too? Is he the one who gave everything he had in Jesus in order to recover us? Could it be that we are God’s treasure?

When I’m tempted by sin these days, I can feel beneath it a desire to feel worthy and loved. This desire tells me that I’ve forgotten who I am and need reminding. I’m learning to run to the only one who can tell me, the One who carved my name in the palm of his hand and gave everything he had so I could be his.

It is heady and humbling at the same time to be so highly regarded by one so worthy. It makes a difference.

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