Sunday, October 18, 2009

Paradox and the Velveteen Rabbit

     Paradox – A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
     Often, God's truths are presented to us in paradoxes.

     Jesus offers a journey of paradox instead of a simple rabbinical pronouncement when asked, "And who is my neighbor?" He tells the story of the poor man beaten by muggers and left to die by the side of the freeway, being avoided by the religious leaders of the day. Then along comes a half-breed they would have despised, the Samaritan, who binds a total stranger's wounds and takes him to safety. Then Jesus asks, "Which of these was 'neighbor' to him?"

     No longer is "neighbor" defined as who lives next door to you. No longer is "neighbor" defined as anyone within your neighborhood. No longer is "neighbor" defined as someone of your tribe, nationality, skin color, sexual orientation, or your religion. Now "neighbor" is based on how I behave, how I love, how I respond to pain in the world. It is a paradox.

     Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury in his 1995 book, Ray Of Darkness, wrote about why paradoxes are so important,

     "We speak in paradoxes because we have to speak in a way the keeps a question alive... If we lose sight of the beauty and terror of Job's God in the whirlwind, we are taming the vision to the scope of what we can cope with, pretending that our language has caught up, and we no longer need paradoxes of confusion and subtlety to speak of (God)."
     Jesus didn't settle the question of who my neighbor is; I must remain on the lookout for my neighbor because it could be anyone.

     It is a paradox that God loves us as we are, and yet - if we let him - loves us into something more each and every day. Perhaps the paradox of God's kind of love for us is best summed up by the children's book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The velveteen rabbit had a conversation with the skin horse…

     "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 something 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 often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or 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."


  1. I love the Velveteen Rabbit story. I know so many people who just don't become real and I love the explanation that it is because they "break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept." For me, becoming real is a life-long process and thanks to God I am loved through the whole wearing-off thing.

  2.      I personally identify with that bit about, "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." As I get older, I just keep reminding myself I'm becoming real.

  3. I love this book too---

    Rick --I am glad to find you here! Linking now! Blessings.

  4. Well, Rick, this is a lovely post.

    It's hard to believe that the man I know as Rowan today wrote those wonderful words that you quoted. Where did he go?

  5.      I wonder, Grandmère. He's kind of a paradox, isn't he?


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