What do a well-tanned farm girl, a palsied mouth and a stuffed toy rabbit have in common?
They each tell us how mysteriously, radically and marvelously loved we are in the Grace Story.
In the Song of All Songs, Shulammite scarce believes she is marriage material – especially to one of highest royalty. She says “I’m dark!” but the Lover King quickly enjoins, “– but lovely!” (the insertion of his voice suggested by Hudson Taylor). It’s not hard to believe he could’ve interjected those words instead of the poor shepherdess, for elsewhere he calls her
It’s a mismatch made in Heaven.
The following is a tender excerpt from the book by Richard Selzer, MD, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery.
In order to remove a tumor from a young woman’s cheek, Dr. Selzer was forced to cut a nerve that left her mouth twisted and palsied. As he ventures to her hospital room for a post-operative visit, he encounters a near-ethereal scene as young woman and her doting husband offer a most endearing exchange.
I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of her facial nerve, the one to the muscles in her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. As a surgeon, I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated form me, private. “Who are they,” I ask myself, “he with his wry mouth who gaze and touch each other so generously?”
The woman speaks:
“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say. “It is because the nerve was cut.”
She nods, is silent. But the young man smiles.
“I like it,” he says. “It’s kind of cute.”
All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful of my presence, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I’m so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works.
I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.”
This reminds me of a conversation between Skin Horse and the Velveteen Rabbit:
“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 all 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.”
– The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
What unimaginable grace!
What inexplicable love!
What God-soaked condescension!
- He chooses, not on whim but mercy…
- He makes us fit Him for Himself…
- His love cannot reject that which He’s chosen to restore...
I believe a Pauline hymn, excerpted from his letter to the believers in Rome, is a fitting way to frame our emotions about now:
Romans 11:33-36 (ASV)
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.