Fakeness , Grace and Calling

 

velveteenrabbit.jpg

“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.”  ― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

“The world isn’t scandalized by our freedom but by our fakeness.” ― Tullian TchividjianJesus + Nothing = Everything

 

The Velveteen Rabbit was written almost a century ago; the first novel written by Margery Williams. It has achieved great acclaim in its various versions, and regularly gets into the lists of Most Influential Children’s Books.

And that’s interesting.

It is interesting because it suggests that our culture is fully aware of and tender towards authenticity and grace. The subtitle of the book is “How Toys Become Real.”

So here’s the question: How do we become real? How do we stop being fake? How do we understand purpose?

(OK, it was three questions)

It’s true enough to say that we have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.

But there is the Ouch moment: the exposure of our inadequate and faulty selves.

“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.”

Brené Brown wrote an insightful book called The Gift of Imperfection:  “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Brennan Manning suggests how this works –or may fail to work- within a community of faith:

“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

We bottle things up. We paper over the cracks. We out our best face on it and say everything’s fine. (Pick a cliché).

But every God-encounter in the Bible starts with exposure and ends with grace. The meta-narrative of the Bible is of a God who “sees and hears” (Remember Hagar who introduced the principle?), and yet who loves and empowers. “The world isn’t scandalized by our freedom but by our fakeness.”

And that was the first thing –the very first thing- in God’s dealings with His prophets. He established authenticity by exposing inadequacy and dependency.

No games-playing, please. There isn’t time for any of that nonsense. “Worship in Spirit and in truth.” Truth!

‘Does it hurt?’

‘Sometimes,’ [but] ‘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… ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily…”

This morning I’m reflecting on the call of Jeremiah, a man broken, driven, burdened with love for his people and summoned to the purposes of God:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

This is how Jeremiah understood God’s hand upon his life. It describes both the way he thought about God and second, the way he thought about himself.

Do you see the sequence? “I formed you… I knew you… I set you apart… I appointed you.”  At the most intimate level, God is Creator, (“I formed you”), Father (“I knew you”), Sanctifier (“I set you apart”), and Lord (“I appointed you”).

And this understanding of God is inextricably linked with the way the prophet thinks about himself, his life and his life-choices. Once you acknowledge that you are a created being (and not a random concatenation of atoms, evolved by chance), then it follows that there is a Creator who has fashioned and formed you, and who fully knows and understands what He has made. And that being so, then He has a right and authority to speak into the life that He has given! He sets apart, He appoints certain ones for certain tasks, because He is Lord over all He has made.

This is a very reassuring truth. Not only is there a path which God has prepared for us to walk in, but also, God has prepared us for the specific path He has chosen. God has a plan for you and me. It reminds me of that old song lyric, “There’s a work for Jesus none but you can do.”

And further still, as F.B.Meyer put it, “There is no emergency in the path for which there has not been made provision in our nature.” The God who knows me completely brought me to this hour, to this point of decision today, to this problem that I’m facing, and so He has put within me all I need to face this challenge. If God has brought me to it, God can bring me through it. He who has begun a good work in me intends to bring it to completion! (Phil 1:6)

There’s a curious moment at the end of John’s gospel, (John 21), when Peter asks the risen Lord about what will happen to John in the future. Jesus answers, almost curtly, “What is that to you?” Peter has already received his own instructions (“Feed my sheep”), and he’s not to be distracted by someone else’s life-task.

It’s no different for you and me. It’s simply a waste of time and effort to compare your own journey with that of someone else, or to be jealous or envious of what they are doing. “What is that to you?” Your task is to answer God’s intention in your own creation, salvation, and summons to service. It’s enough for you to be all that God intends for you to be, and to do it well.

 

So today, even this morning, if you’re not sure about it, why not ask God what your work in the world is, that for which you were born, that to which you are appointed, and on account of which you were conceived in the creative mind of God?

This verse reminds that there is such a purpose, so seek that you might be permitted to see it through, and never doubt that you have within you everything you need to do so.

God has formed you with great care for the life that you’re living right now, and He makes no mistakes.

And if God’s purpose is presently unclear, and your life seems like a jumble of disconnected bits, then dare to believe that He knows what He’s doing, and that one day those disconnected bits will turn into an amazing mosaic, assembled by a Master-craftsman and fashioned together in love. 

“For now I know in part; but then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13)

God would have me real, true to myself (of course) but also true to the One who made me and calls me into life and service.

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