Friday, May 31, 2013

On Being Loved

Meet the fifth member of our family:

This is Reese's security toy. I got him from my graduate assistant at ISU while I was still pregnant (which means I have a floppy-eared representation of my former career dragging lifelessly at my daughter's side everywhere we go. It's great). His name is Mono (like the illness) because there was a time when she thought every small furry animal was a cat. She would point to him and say “meow” but it sounded more like a high pitched “mono” and the word stuck. We always get a good laugh when she turns to random strangers and says, "I have Mono."

Reese - 9 months

When we take Mono out in public people often smile and say, “That is one loved bunny.” And loved he is. She doesn’t go to sleep without him. There have been many just-before-bedtime searches for Mono when Reese forgets where he's been “taking his nap.” She doesn’t leave the house without him either. There have also been a few three-point turnarounds on the road to town when she discovers that we’ve left him at home. Mono often joins us at the dinner table; he appears in family pictures; and Reese always adds a “thank you for Mono” to her nightly prayers. Yes, he is one loved bunny.

Sometimes people ask me if I've ever considered attempting to replace him with a new one. Of course not. I know Reese would never accept a different bunny - even a seemingly nicer, newer version of the one she has. She doesn't care that he's had everything imaginable scrubbed out of his fur. She doesn't care that he's now more gray than white or that the material on his nose is rubbed off. She doesn't care that his fur isn't soft anymore or that he smells kinda funny even after a trip through the washer. To Reese, Mono has always been the perfect companion. The flaws just don't matter. She loves him and she can't see what other people see.

When I look at Reese's attachment to Mono, I realize how silly our struggles with self-image really are. We judge ourselves by our appearance, but the men who married us and watched us carry their children don’t focus on our stretch marks or cellulite. They don’t see the flaws that we see. Instead, they see a perfect companion.

We judge ourselves by our mistakes, but the people who know and love us to our deepest core don’t focus on our misspoken words or neurotic tendencies. They don’t see the flaws that we see. Instead, they see a dear friend.

We judge ourselves by our shortcomings, but the God who loves and forgives unconditionally doesn’t focus on our lapses in judgment or deepest regrets. He doesn’t see the flaws that we see. Instead, He sees a loved and worthy creation.

If you are fortunate enough to have people in your life who know, love, and accept you at your best and worst, then you, too, are "one loved bunny" and nothing else matters. None of those people would prefer another you – even one that appears more perfect on the surface.

That pure unconditional love reminds me of this passage from the 1922 children's classic The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. She writes:

"When a child loves you for a long, long time - not just to play with but really loves you, then you become Real... It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time... 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 those things don't matter at all because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Reese - 3 years

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