“Be real.” A friend of mine wrote those words on a church bulletin once during worship and slid the note onto my Bible. At first I was hurt. “I’m real,” I thought. I’m not pretending to be something I’m not. But I’ve carried those words with me for over twenty years.
Have you ever read the story The Velveteen Rabbit? It’s about a stuffed bunny who longs to be real. The old skin horse tells the bunny that to be real, you have to go through all kinds of living. “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.” It takes time.
How does that translate into our lives? When I was 18, I thought I was being real. I certainly wasn’t steeped in a bunch of lies, wearing a disguise or going by a different name. But I wasn’t real either. I wasn’t honest about my questions and doubts and mistakes. I hid them, and it slowed me down.
What I didn’t know then was that God loved me anyway. He loves us, questions, doubts, mistakes and all. And none of that bothers him. What he doesn’t like is people not being themselves. The Pharisees weren’t real. They acted holy and self-righteous, but Jesus called them “white-washed tombs”—clean and white on the outside, but filled with dead, rotting bodies on the inside. Not a pretty picture.
You have the perfect opportunity to get your ears rubbed off and your fur worn thin. Ask all your questions. Share what you’ve learned. Be honest. Be yourself. God will guide your steps, and when other people look at you, they won’t see someone fake and unsure, but someone free, growing, and learning. They’ll see the real you. And that’s who Jesus loves.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”