In the classic children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, a young toy rabbit and the old skin horse have the following conversation:

“What is real?” the rabbit asks, “—and does it hurt?”

“Sometimes,” said the skin horse, for he was always truthful ….

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asks, “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 often happen 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 those things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Once again, we find the greatest wisdom couched in simple terms. The story of the old skin horse, you see, is my story, too. Authenticity in life comes at the cost of a little wear and tear. It is extremely difficult to care genuinely or love deeply until enough real life has washed over you to smooth your rough edges. It is hard to heal the wounds of another unless you have experienced being wounded.

This is just a gentle reminder to those who are going through hard times of late. God is not the author of suffering, but has placed us in a world of opposites: pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, victory and defeat. God does, however, use suffering toward a positive purpose, using the pain to polish our characters and make us more caring. Real life, with all its hard knocks, makes us more real.

Even better is the fact that, in the end, love wins-out over the pain. In the Letters to the Romans, Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” That’s a good word to hold on to, when life “gets real” – as my mother used to say, “This, too, shall pass.” Remember that from day to day. And you know that you are loved beyond measure.

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