Monday, October 06, 2008

becoming real

Giving Sam a big hug!
Copyright (c) 2008 Savannah Holtcamp

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you...."

"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."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit Or How Toys Become Real

This morning while getting ready to take Sam to school I was listening to KSBJ, the Christian radio station and a couple of really good songs played, and I just felt this upwelling of joy and love for God, for Christ. Lately I've had experiences where I cared about people who can't seem to return the compassion and understanding and openness with which I try to live my life, and when that happens it's very easy for me to start to question myself. What is wrong with me? How did I contribute to this problem? I see all my flaws and I start to blame myself.

I started to realize that my deep frustration at wanting to connect with people who don't share the interest in connecting back with real intimacy (intimacy was defined in a book I read recently as "the sharing of reality with one another" - how profound!), I realized my feelings must pall in comparison with how God must feel when people do not respond to His overwhelming compassionate merciful love. It's easy to get angry with God or frustrated with God sometimes but I started to feel empathy and comraderie with God. Maybe that sounds weird, but it gave me a greater compassion for reaching those who don't know Christ.

I tend to have more liberal understandings of "salvation" and all that than many but... I definitely believe without a doubt that there is something within the words and wisdom and reality of Jesus that can not be found anywhere else. I have for many years been frustrated with the "church" (but not with Jesus) because of self-righteousness and other typical churchy flaws, but lately I feel I've found my "tribe." Let me explain.

Over the past few weeks, I've felt a fierce determination to seek understanding from this one person who I felt was the only person who could explain a particular situation, and I felt a fierce determination to be understood as I was not as they thought me to be. I wanted them to see and accept my reality, which is intimacy - the sharing of reality. But after an inspiring and confidence-building conversation with someone I deeply respect, who has a lot of training as a counselor and in ministry, I got this wisdom:

* Watch people to see if their feet follow their mouth. In other words, do they do what they say? Do their actions match what their words said they would do? It takes time to know whether people you meet are trustworthy in this manner.

* When people's feet do not match their mouth, they do not know themselves. They are not living emotionally or spiritually mature, connected lives. Although we may not want to totally end a friendship or relationship immediately upon realizing this, why would I want to "listen" to what they say about me, when they don't even know themselves? Why would you put any trust in their words?

This was a huge revelation for me. Especially because in these groups I'm now surrounded by people whose feet do match their mouth, and who accept me as I am, and love and embrace me as flawed but beautiful, a person of dignity, a child of God who has been harmed by some awful stuff in this fallen world, but redeemed and on a right path.

For so many years I never felt I fit in, anywhere. I related better to non-Christians and scientists, many of whom were atheists, because they lived in the real world - they accepted science and the knowledge within and were a bit more progressive in their thinking and highly educated and intellectual and were very real and down to earth and psychologically aware. The non-Christian friends are often spiritual but not religious and many are my absolutely closest friends. But I have a hard time discussing religion in any real deep way with them. We just respected one another's differences. And that's ok. And I never felt I fit in with the Christians because especially in Texas it tends to be more conservative than I am, and I felt judged for having different views rather than embraced because God makes us all unique. And I would get frustrated by some things that happened like being abandoned by the churchy friends when I needed them most (that was years ago now).

But recently in a few groups I'm in at my church, I've found Christians who are deep, genuine, raw, gritty, real, honest. They are not afraid to share their flaws and lessons learned and current struggles, no matter how potentially embarrassing or humiliating. They are open and real. Of course all that is shared is confidential but the courage to be so open breaks and heals my heart at the same time. And it's from a Christian perspective but one that is very grounded in the real world. And they just as openly accept me and cover the shame of my past with grace and words of healing, rather than condemnation or silence (which gives the message that 'you are not good enough for me,' or 'there's something shameful or not good enough about you'). Finding these groups has been such a profound revolution inside my soul!

I have seen some true transformations in some of the people I have known from both close and from afar that I'm witnessing and it's beautiful. The power of that for me, seeing that within the Christian church within an individual believer's life, is incredible. I don't mean "I found Christ and it changed my life" kind of thing (though that definitely happened to me) but "I've been a Christian all my life, and embracing this new type of raw-reality and radical honesty transformed me." The Christians who have already embraced the spiritual and accepted Christ, often their whole lives, are embracing the "real world," embracing "intimacy" and the sharing of reality, and it's healing them. Wow. Sort of a flip on the typical understanding of how Christ transforms. It reminded me a bit of the Velveteen Rabbit - becoming Real.


Janine said...

This was a beautiful post.
By a very beautiful person.
I'm so thankful to call you "friend".

Unknown said...

ahh thank you! I'm thankful to call you friend too! :)