His nose has a hole in it. Most of the “fur” has been rubbed off of his tail. A good portion of his stuffing has come and gone. His once white coat has evolved into a dingy gray.
I read the following passage the other day from the Velveteen Rabbit, and while I thought of my son Austin’s dear Yoggie, it spurred many other thoughts for me.
“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.”
If ever there was a candidate for becoming real, Austin’s Yoggie would top the list.
Stuffed animals are truly that way…the more well-loved, the worse they look. As I thought about it, though, people aren’t much like that. This passage is often used to talk about aging and how with a full life we become more flabby, wrinkled, broken, and such. Yet, I think the more well-loved we are, the more vibrant we are.
Think about someone you know who has lived a hard life. Or even reflect on your own life and a time you went through where you may have felt lonely, abused, or unloved. There is so much you can tell from a person’s eyes, appearance, and demeanor. I can remember a time in my life when I felt like an empty shell of a person. It can take just one individual to extinguish your fire.
Not long ago I met a woman who had experienced severe abuse for years at the hands of her father. She had just set out on the path to healing. Her eyes haunted me afterwards. A vacancy existed. You could tell she was reluctant for human interaction. Her light had been snuffed out, stolen from her.
The good news is light can be rekindled. The loss doesn’t have to be permanent. One of the joys from working in women’s ministry for the last 10 years is that I get to witness many success stories. I have seen women enter our midst with their light dwindling. It only takes the love of a few compassionate people to change someone’s life. Few things are more thrilling to me than watching that light shine brighter. Even just one caring man or woman can make an enormous difference.
With eyes sparkling, one woman recently sat with me sharing her life story. She said our group of moms had changed her life. Joy bubbled from her. Her road has been hard, and I mean hard, but she knows she has people in her corner now.
I think I understand a little better now why Moses face shone like the sun after being in God’s presence. People may not “glow” like Moses did, but there is no denying that when we share God’s love with others there can be a visible transformation that happens. And not just in them, but in us, too.
Friends, it can just take a hug, a kind word, some of your time to listen, a note of encouragement, to change the trajectory of a person’s life. Then just stand back and watch them walk a little straighter and shine a little brighter. Whose life can you touch for the better today?