When I was a little girl, my mom used to read me The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) by Margery Williams. Only after years of being loved into shreds did the stuffed rabbit become real and alive. The tattered ears, the dangling eyes, the worn body meant love had happened there.
Love changes us, after all.
But it never happens without a cost, for there is always a high price to pay when you truly love.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16
At the beginning of summer, the Summer Team steps into life on Seneca Street with clean clothes and fresh expectations. The first days are full of interactions at arms-length, some awkward dances, and great intentions. They go through the motions with smiles and earnestness.If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
But then, little by little, the Summer Team starts serving up their hearts to the kids.
They love the kids through break downs and melt downs and just all-out-days- of-down. They start to peer inside more intently, seeing the background and the hurting. They start to relate, start to embrace, start to share.Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
And, really, that’s when it starts to happen.
Because, the closer we allow ourselves to get to another human, the more clearly we see a real person – not just a picture or a name, but a life that breathes and cries and giggles and dreams.
Real is beautiful.
But, then again, up-close is where we finally see that there is so much we can’t touch, so much we can’t fix, so much, so much. We realize how big the situations are and how tragically little our band aids can really cover. And, the temptation is to just to wrap up our hearts and hide them away, isn’t it? Some days, it just feels better to feel less, to know less, to care less.
Something happens when we get close enough to be vulnerable & then stick around for it Click To Tweet
Love nudges at your heart and tears it up. In fact, if it doesn’t shred your heart a little and tatter your emotions, it’s probably not love. You might just be clanging cymbals and gongs in your one-man-band.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Lately, I’ve seen the Summer Team laying down their cymbals, laying down pieces of themselves for the sake of loving these kids. I know their decision to really love and be loved will cost them.
And, I pray their hearts never recover.
I pray their intellect never overrides the power of connecting, really connecting, with another human being.
I pray their craving for structure never stops them from opening their doors, their lives, and their hearts to the beautiful chaos of God-ordained relationships.
I pray their eyes never see people in the same way, that their arms never forget to hug often, that their shoulders feel uncomfortably empty without a little person riding on top.
I pray they are changed and rearranged by the experience here. I pray they love on and on, especially when they are close enough to be hurt and forever affected.
For, that’s when we start to become real.
“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.”
So, be encouraged. Your heart may feel all exposed, overwhelmed, and shabby from constant use but real is beautiful -it declares there is hope alive in this world.
Most importantly, it mirrors the love of God-in-flesh.
It reflects the Love that laid down Himself. His body was broken and marred but always beautiful to us velveteen people who choose to believe.