Becoming Real

When I was in my mid-twenties, somebody introduced me to what has turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time. I love it so much, in fact, that for my birthday one year (remember that I was in my mid-twenties at the time), my parents bought me a hard back, illustrated copy of the book. I loved it. It was one of the best birthday presents I ever got. The Velveteen Rabbit.

Even tonight, I sat in the living room and read an excerpt aloud to Morgan and it was all I could do not to get all choked up. (This is why I often won’t read aloud. I have a history of bursting into tears as I read aloud, don’t I, Mama?) So, anyway, just in case you haven’t read it, heard it, or need a refresher, let me share the excerpt with you before we go on.

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.”

Every time I read this story, I see something new and feel something deeper. The first thing I’ve always seen in it is that I want to be loved that much. But even more, I want to be real. I don’t want to just sit on a shelf, or in a toy box, unused. I don’t want to just be a decoration—something that looks pretty and takes up space. I want to be real. I want to live life to the fullest, even if it means getting beat up and scarred, occasionally. I’m not just here to breathe—I’m here to live. And that requires being real.

It occurs to me that I might be unclear when I talk about being real. I’m actually more familiar with unreal than with real. I lived unreal for a real long time. I lived my life to please other people and so I made myself into whatever image I thought they would want to see. I wasn’t trying to live a lie. I was just trying to be loved. But it was stealing my dreams and killing my soul. My dream was music. I had talent and I had training. But when the people around me told me that I couldn’t succeed, I boxed up my dream and put it away.

The toys in the nursery laughed at the Velveteen Rabbit because he wasn’t mechanical. He didn’t have exciting, moving parts. But the boy loved him. And through his relationship with the boy and being loved by the boy, he became real.

Last week, I talked about how getting to know people more deeply and allowing them to get to know me more, has made me a better and stronger. How it has made me love better, stronger, and deeper. It has made me live more fully—it has made me more real.

I cherish it, but it’s not enough for me.

It seems to me that my relationships with my friends and family are just one slice of something much bigger and eternal. If my relationships with my friends and family make me better, help me to live more fully, and make me more real, how much more so would a relationship with the God who created me, knows everything about me, and loves me infinitely more than the Velveteen Rabbit was ever loved?

He’s there waiting on me to notice Him. Every minute of every day. AW Tozer said, “God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon reality.” (Tozer, 37)

And I also borrow Tozer’s prayer: “Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been.”

This is our second week discussing Chapter 4 of AW Tozer’s classic The Pursuit of God. You don’t have to read the book to hang out and chat with us! If you did write a response to this chapter, please go visit my friend and co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact, as he’s hosting the link widget this week. And I’ll see you back here next week to begin chatting about Chapter 5!


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  1. Great post- it made me tear up!

    I want to be Real!

  2. I don’t know that I’ve ever read that book. I know I’ve heard of it. Sounds amazing! I was thinking as I was reading that we are being loved that much. Whether we choose to embrace that love or not, that’s our choice as you said. I’m with you though, Sarah! I choose love and I want to be real. Thanks–wonderful post.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    TC, Thank you! We’re working on getting there, together!

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, get the book and read it with your kids. It’s a little long for short attention spans, but you can use it for devotion. It’s amazing! And I know that, for me, I wasn’t always ready to receive that love. For years, I didn’t believe it was possible. I’m FINALLY, FINALLY learning. Thank God!

  5. Great thoughts and application of that book. “Reality” isn’t found in the meaningless. I’ve also learned that the hard way. Relationships don’t come easy for me, but probably because when I was younger I poured myself too much into them only to be left empty. But there are relationships that mean something to me. Those I cherish. And every day I strive to grow my relationship with God through Jesus- nothing is more “real” than that. And nothing is more important. I echo yours and Tozer’s prayer: make heaven more real to me!

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you for sharing, Frank! Earthly relationships can be so hard! But God REALLY uses them as a teaching ground with me. 🙂

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