In today’s world, when someone tells you to “get real”, they want you to get a reality check and to stop behaving as though you’re living in a fantasy world. There is another meaning taken from one of my kids favorite childhood storybooks, The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real), by Margery Williams.
“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.”
Author and pastor Matt Chandler said “People don’t like love, they like that flittery flirty feeling. They don’t love “love” – love is sacrificial, love is ferocious, it’s not emotive. Our culture doesn’t love “love,” it loves the idea of love. It wants the emotion without paying anything for it. It’s ridiculous.” Merriam-Webster defines love as: “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person; attraction that includes sexual desire; the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship or a person you love in a romantic way.” There is an Ancient Greek word for love. It is “Agape”, and is a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love mentioned in the Bible. Agape, and variations of it are found throughout the New Testament. Agape perfectly describes the kind of love Jesus Christ has for his Father and for his followers: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” (John 14:21, NIV).
The Bible is pretty clear on what love is. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV), the Apostle Paul defines sacrificial “agape” love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” John 3:16 (NIV) explains God’s sacrificial love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In John 15:13 (NIV), Jesus declares “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In John 13:34-35 (NIV) Jesus commands his disciples… “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Not many soap opera scripts can be derived from these verses of scripture above. In the Hollywood version there are rarely signs of sacrificial, “agape” love. “Eros” is another of the four words in Ancient Greek which can be rendered into English as “love”. It is what is most commonly portrayed in our pop culture as “love”. The term “erotic” is derived from eros. Country and Rock Songs commonly use eros in lyrics such as: “I want you, I need you, I can’t live without you baby.” Sacrificial love is what a soldier does in defending his/her country. 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV) describes the sacrifice our Lord himself made for each of us: “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
Both my wife and I were touched deeply by a recent Facebook post by a long time friend. Her article paints a beautiful picture of sacrificial love that makes our culture’s “eros love” superficial at best. She agreed to allow it to be reposted here…
“This isn’t a joke or something political but it is something that happened to me this afternoon that I want to share it. I was eating an early dinner today and I really wasn’t paying much attention to anyone else in the restaurant as I was playing a game on my tablet to pass the time. I barely overheard an older couple to my left and I glanced up for a few seconds and noticed that she was in a wheelchair. I went back to my game.
My food came and I sat there eating when I heard this man tell her that 4 days ago was their 60th wedding anniversary and the church had given them a party. He went into detail about the get together. He told her that 3 days ago they went to the fair, he won her a stuffed animal and bought her ice cream. This seemed to make her happy. Then I noticed that he was holding her hand.
I went back to my train of thought and eating. Then I overheard him tell her where he took her last week and who they saw. He didn’t leave out any details. Then he told her what they did yesterday, who they saw and who came to their house to see them. He told her what he had cooked them for dinner last night and what they ate for breakfast this morning. I glanced over and looked at her as she looked at him. She never stopped smiling at him as he was talking and she never let go of his hand. Then it struck me that she had Alzheimer’s and that he was just trying to refresh her memory if he could.
He looked over and noticed that I was looking. He said “Hi Little Lady, my name is Carl and this is my Bride of 60 years, Anna, and she’s still as pretty as the day I pulled her ponytail in school.” Then he looked at her and said, “Isn’t that right Sweetheart?” You could tell by his eyes when he looked at her, that he truly loved this woman who was losing the ability to remember things.
I went back to eating my dinner when he told her they had fresh peach pie and it had always been her favorite. He called the waitress over and told her to bring some of that pie for his sweetheart. I noticed that not once did he ever let go of her hand the whole time they were eating. While he was waiting on their pie, he raised her hand up and kissed it. She smiled and pulled his hand over and kissed his. He looked over at me and said asked if I had a family and I had to tell him that 3 children and 5 grandchildren. He said no, what I meant was do you have a sweetheart. I told him no and he looked me in the eye and said, “Little lady, there is a man that is going to come and pull your ponytail one day and love you till the day you die… you just mark old Carl’s words.” I smiled and told him I sure hoped he was right.
They ate their pie and got up and started to leave and he pushed Anna over and she wanted to hold my hand and tell me I had pretty eyes. I held my hand out to shake his as a gesture of being nice and he said, come here gal… I give hugs. So he hugged me and leaned in and said to watch for the man who pulls my ponytail. I told them it was nice to meet them and goodbye. While I finished eating, I couldn’t help but think about them and how much he loved that woman. I couldn’t help but think how lucky she was, even though she may not have realized it anymore, that she had such a kind but caring husband. He was proud of his wife of 60 years and that’s hard to find these days.
The one thing that stuck in my mind was when he said he never fails to thank God for giving her to him. I can’t remember the last time I heard a man say that of his wife and really mean it. He said “the good Lord never blessed them with children but it was alright ‘cause he had Anna.” I couldn’t help but think that this was truly a love story. As I sat there thinking about everything he said to her, his actions and what he had said to me, I felt my eyes tearing up. I sat there for what seemed like an hour wiping the tears off my cheeks and felt blessed to have gone in there for dinner at that very time that they were. Then I felt sorrow for what he was going to be going through with the love of his life and Alzheimer’s. Somehow it just didn’t seem fair that this should happen to them.
If sometime during what time I do have left on earth, if I could be just half as happy with someone as they are now, how could I ever ask for anything more? So I suppose I will wait for the one who pulls my ponytail… according to Carl. ~Rhonda J. Rogers Fetter
So, let’s get real, like the “Skin Horse” describes.