Becoming Real: 40 Days with the Velveteen Rabbit
Day 29 – Monday after Passion Sunday – 22nd March2010
It was a bright, sunny morning, and the windows stood wide open. They had carried the Boy out on the balcony, wrapped in a shawl, and the little Rabbit lay tangled up among the bedclothes, thinking.
The Boy was going to the seaside to-morrow. Everything was arranged, and now it only remained to carry out the doctor’s orders. They talked about it all, while the little Rabbit lay under the bedclothes, with just his head peeping out, and listened. The room was to be disinfected, and all the books and toys that the Boy had played with in bed must be burnt.
from The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams
And then, almost as an afterthought, the axe falls. ‘It’s a lovely day, isn’t everything wonderful? Tomorrow we are going to the seaside. Oh and by the way, we are going to have to get rid of all those old disease riddled toys and books’
There are so many things which happen to us or those close to us, which means that (even though they may be for the good of the majority) someone gets burnt. A redundancy at work, a move from a family home, a change in circumstance because of a change of ability. We face many challenges in our life. Perhaps some of the things which lead to us being ‘thrown on the fire’ are less tangible? An occasional comment or action early in our life can lead to life changing consequences. What are the things which have thrown you onto the scrapheap of life? A ‘cutting comment by a family member? A decision by a teacher to choose another for an award over us? Perhaps we invested a great deal of energy yin a new project in our local church and no one else could see it’s potential? We are not alone.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta was, so the story is told, sent to India because she did not fit in at her convent in Albania. Apparently she could not light the candles in church correctly. On such little things we are sent to the funeral pyres of life – but can we find hope beyond the burning?
Joan Chittister in her book ‘Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope’ (Eerdmans 2005) tells how her whole life was changed because of one person’s decision to reject her application for further learning as a teacher. She goes on to describe the religious life as being one akin to the struggle between Jacob and the Angel representing God. In the end the angel ends the fight by touching Jacob’s hip and Jacob, the ‘so called’ victor, limps towards the breaking dawn.
There may be a fire in our future – but beyond the fire there is the possibility of a new purpose.
O God, my words are cold:
The frosted frond of fern or feathery palm
Wrought on the whitened pane —
They are as near to fire as these my words,
Oh that they were as flames!” Thus did I cry,
And thus God answered me; “Thou shalt have words,
But at this cost, that thou must first be burnt —
Burnt by red embers from a secret fire,
Scorched by fierce hearts
and withering winds that sweep.
Through all thy being, carrying thee afar
From old delights. Doth not the ardent fire,
Consume the mountains heart before the flow
Of fervent lava? Wouldst thou easefully,
As from cool, pleasant fountains, flow in fire?
Say, can thy heart endure or can thy hands be strong?
In the day that I shall deal with thee?
“First the iron must enter thine own soul,
And wound and brand it, scarring awful lives
Indelibly upon it, and a hand
Restless in tender terribleness
Must thoroughly purge it, fashioning its pain
To power that leaps in fire.
Not otherwise, and by no lighter touch,
Are fire-words wrought.
© Andrew Dotchin – 2018