I haven’t seen them since I was a young adult, but I remember them so vividly. A rowdy group of college students who made me laugh with their antics on Thanksgiving. No we weren’t relatives, but family just the same. I watch as the seven in white starched shirts carry the casket of one of their own and my heart feels like bursting. And as I stand there it seems so surreal. How did we go from young adults to middle aged in a blink. Honestly, this stage in life just feels down right weird. If you’re over forty you know what I mean. Its like you wake up one morning and your kids are almost grown, your metabolism forces you to eat less and work out more, and you find it hard to touch your toes. Muscles grown more, going to bed early is a treat, and catching a Sunday afternoon nap is well… priceless.
The world screams stay young and every morning you look in the mirror and realize there’s just no reality in that. No creams or magic potions stop time from ticking on and if you’re chasing the unreal you’ll never be enough.
I heard it for the first time not too long ago. The preacher reads it from the pulpit and I am struck by its sheer beauty.
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.”
The words from the Velveteen Rabbit flow over me like a song, and God comes right in the middle of the sermon whispering…this is about living enough. I read the words over later that day, and instead of “real” I read “enough”. Go ahead… give it a whirl.
Did you hear it?
When God loves you for a long time then you become enough.
When you are enough you don’t mind being hurt.
It doesn’t happen all at once. You become.
By the time you are enough, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
Those hidden gray hairs under my color, and new lines around my eyes… the creaky joints are all just signs to me. Signals of the work God has done and is doing behind the scenes. Recognizing who we are in Him doesn’t happen all at one, it takes time to become.
My middle son is a senior this year and I hear others tell him how this is one of the best year’s of his life. My oldest is in college and people tell her the same thing. And that’s just it– every year, every season has the potential to be the best time of our lives. Not because of our age or responsibility but because of the way God grows us through it. He uses every season of our lives to bring us closer to Him. It’s the way He works… the way He is.
I got in the car the morning after I stood and watched those seven men at the graveside. As I head out to work the words of a song playing on the radio bring me joy. Real words for those of us who find ourselves missing “the good ole days” or feeling weird in the place we find ourselves…
all I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus…