‘Loved into ugly’: how ‘the Beloved’ reveals our own beauty to us
This Sunday, Plank Chapel United Methodist Church will be celebrating the Baptism of Jesus during worship. The Gospel of Matthew will be read, to include these words, “Jesus came out of the waters and a voice from heaven is heard, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved.’ ”
It is easy to consider Jesus as beloved. At times it is difficult to consider our neighbors as beloved, but more often than not it is hardest to consider ourselves as beloved. Even after we have waded in the baptismal waters and have been washed cleaned by the blood of the Lamb, we can slip back into seeing ourselves as ugly and unloved.
In “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse is answering a question posed by the rabbit about what is real.
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “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 these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand... once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Ugly is not a very nice word in most instances, yet what the Skin Horse is describing is being loved into ugly. When we look at ourselves or others and see only ugly, God sees real. God sees beauty. God does something different when God loves. God does not love us into ugly. God meets us in our ugliness and reveals to us how precious we are, how beloved.
When we accept God’s transforming love in our life, we are changed. The change is real and lasts for always. We are also becoming, growing into the child of God that God knew before we were formed in our mother’s womb. We are growing to see the world as God sees it — worthy of salvation. The veil of ugliness is lifted from our eyes and we see real. We see beauty.
The news of late is filled with ugliness and the broken of humanity. It is news that goes viral as we seem unable to look away. Can we look through the ugliness and brokenness and see the child of God who needs to know love?
The Velveteen Rabbit wants to know if becoming real hurts, and the Skin Horse replies, “Sometimes, but when you are real you do not mind being hurt.”
Choosing to engage the brokenness of the world with a healing heart and transforming love will hurt. Jesus Christ chose to die for the salvation of the world. His story went viral in a world without technology. Today the world needs us to pour love into its veil of ugliness. When we do, God’s love will change the world and his story will go viral.