"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."
Excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
I read this, of all places, in a section of reflections from an Upper Room prayer book. It is a story about the make-believe world of toys, but clearly offers a message for those of us in the very real world. I translate real to be the growth and maturity that God seeks for every person. Real isn't how you are made. It's a thing that happens to you. It doesn't happen all at once. It takes a long time. Real is beautiful, except to the few who don't understand.
My prayer: Gracious God, allow Epworth to be a place where people are becoming real: where the truth is lived and shared and encouragement is a way of life. Give us patience to endure the long time it takes, and the courage to continue becoming real, obedient disciples of your Son, Jesus Christ, in order that the world might know us by our love. May we gather people of all kinds, grow every person in grace and truth, and go forth to be good neighbors in the places we live. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.