Her name is Dolly, the name our daughter Julie, then two years old, gave the doll 37 years ago. Dolly was one of the toys in the church nursery, a doll with a pink bean bag body with plastic hands and face. Julie took an immediate liking to her and insisted on bringing her home from church. Normally not a strong-willed child, Julie would not give in on the issue. Her mother relented, figuring Julie would tire of the doll and we could bring it back to the nursery the next week. This did not happen, and we ended up buying another doll to take over Dolly’s duties in the church nursery.
Dolly was always Julie’s favorite. She slept with Dolly, Julie usually taking Dolly’s little hand and rubbing it against her own lips to comfort her as she fell asleep. Dolly’s hand was worn smooth by this loving nightly ritual. In fact, Dolly’s entire body eventually showed signs of a lot of loving. She needed stitches to keep from bleeding beans from her bean bag body. Eventually, the body needed replacing, which Julie’s mom sewed, filling it with a transfusion of fresh plastic beads. Her hands eventually needed replacing as well.
Julie grew up but she never grew away from Dolly. When Julie married Victor and they made a new home together, Dolly became a part of their home. Now, 37 years later, Dolly lives with Julie and her large family in Mexico (I’m not sure about any Visa or other papers Dolly might have). Once again Dolly needs restoration from the wear of love, and mom/grandma is, as in times past, doing the restoration.
Dolly’s story is reminiscent of that of the velveteen rabbit in the children’s story, first published in 1922. The stuffed rabbit became worn to threads by the love of the little boy to whom he belonged. Eventually he became a real rabbit because of all the love he had been given and that he gave.
To put one’s self in the position to love and be loved is not only risky, it’s wearing. Loving is not easy. To love takes work, and, yes, it wears on us. Thankfully, the Lord God who created us to love and receive love also is there to love us and restore us when we find our patience has worn thin and we’re coming apart at the seams.
Sometimes we’re tempted to pull back, to isolate ourselves, to keep from being hurt again, to keep from the prospect of being rejected again, to get out of what seems an endless cycle of giving more than we get. But to do so would be like placing a doll under glass; it stays all pretty and nice, but it’s not really doing what a doll’s created to do.
No, we’re to let ourselves be worn, even to the point, it seems, of being worn out. We have the One who has called us to this way of living who will be there, if we reach out to Him, to restore us. Like the stuffed velveteen rabbit who became a real rabbit through being worn out by love, so we become more fully human, reflecting more and more the image of our Creator when we allow ourselves to be worn by love!
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God… Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7,11)