“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55-52
In my favorite scene from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse and the Rabbit are lying strewn about after a playful afternoon, having a conversation about nursery magic…
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit… “Does it mean having things 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 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 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 know it may seem like little more than a silly children’s story, but to me, this nursery magic feels oddly reminiscent of a deep truth in the Christian life. The Skin Horse is tattered, worn, used up and washed out, but there is no sadness in his condition; he doesn’t mourn for his former glory or angst over his decrepit state. Rather, the Skin Horse has passed beyond such corporeal concerns, to a place where he cannot be harmed or wrecked by anything tangible. He sees with eyes focused beyond the physical, to the heart of a thing, for he has been made Real by love.
So too should we train our eyes to the truth beyond the here and now. We will suffer disappointments, hurt, frustration, pain, anguish, anxiety, illness, suffering, and ultimately death, but in light of God’s great love for us, all of these sufferings are powerless. The beatings and blows of this life cannot damage our souls. When we become truly alive in Christ, such that our hearts will His will, there is no sting in death. Christ has conquered the grave, and by his grace and mercy we can rejoice with him in His victory over the death. The closer we walk with Him, the deeper we know that nothing can harm us, for we are His beloved and He is our God. May we learn to become Real by relinquishing the things of this world and grabbing hold of the Kingdom, where we will eternally rejoice in His resurrection and all things shall be made new.
~Norma Hilary Mulhern