"What is REAL?"- the question posed to the old Skin Horse hearkens back to a question formed nearly 2,000 years by a not so nearly sincere inquisitor.
He was the Roman governor of the province of Palestine. Presented with a rather "shabby" looking Jew, Pontius Pilate no doubt found it amusing, yet threatening, that such a man could put on that he was a king. The man appeared to be a giant question mark. He claimed that he wasn't the sort of king Pontius had ever seen in this world. To the contrary, this man, Jesus of Nazareth, claimed he was the king of an entirely different world. He said the whole reason he came was "To bear witness to the truth" and that "Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." This mission statement chided Pilate; from the depths of his cynicism he tumbled out the question, "What is truth?"
Pontius never waited for a response.
He turned and walked away.
. . .
The shape of every human's life revolves around the answer to the question: "What is truth?". For some, truth is simply whatever one wants it to be. Pharrell Williams lyrically captures this understanding of truth in his song "Happy" when he writes, "Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth." This understanding leaves what counts as true as being nearly boundless. Exposed to the passing of every moment and the rise and fall of every human emotion, truth becomes ever-changing and all-directional, such that it provides no direction. The human person is left tossing and turning in her search for truth; she finds happiness to be no lady liberty but rather a brutal dictator who demands emotional satisfaction at every waking moment. This inward search for truth can lead only to implosion and the evaporation of any hope for lasting truth.
It is left wanting.
The question, "What is real?" is connected to the question, "What is truth?" in that to know the truth is to know what is required to be real. While often synonymous, under the Velveteen use of "real", what is true is distinguished from what is real by the same difference that stands between what is potential and what is actual. While the laws of science are simultaneously true in theory and real in experience, the laws of life do not operate so automatically. While I am determined to obey the law of gravity, I can freely disobey the law against murder; my physical body may be constrained, but my person is not. If human beings are understood as being designed by God with a purpose, with parameters, with laws that are aimed toward their flourishing, then real human living is not something that comes automatically; it must be realized; it must be chosen.
What does all this have to do with a Velveteen Rabbit? I admit it is not a faultless analogy. However, I think it is a helpful one. We all want something, and I think that something is becoming "Real". We all want to find the nexus of our existence and we want to live it. We don't want to know the truth in an abstract way; we want to breathe it in and breathe it out. The Velveteen Rabbit represents that desire, but it also represents the solution.
We can't become Real on our own. Try as much as we might to align ourselves with all that God created us to be, we will always come off as a hypocritical sham. We can never get our motives in all the right order, and if we ever did, our pride would dash the whole thing. We can only become Real when God loves us.
What does God's love look like?
It looks like Christ.
Jesus Christ, the one who perfectly loved and was perfectly loved by the Father. Jesus is Real. And we can become like him. By entering into God's love, we start getting Real today. This is not a painless process. It will certainly make us shabby. But one day, all that shabbiness will give way to the reality that we can begin experiencing today.
Count this first post as a directive towards the first and ultimate step to getting Real. If you miss this, then everything else I ever write will be useless in the end. "Getting Real" in theological terms is synonymous with the process of "sanctification" as an outflow of being justified in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as the outpouring of God's love. Henceforth, all opinions on Faith and Culture will flow from the "Getting Real" or "sanctifying" experience, being aimed towards helping every person along the path towards becoming Real.
I expect to experience some push-back in the future, but I find comfort in Skin Horse's sage reassurance, "Once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."