I love books. I love them so much that when I’m done reading them they look loved. In the wonderful book The Velveteen Rabbit, the skin horse explains to the velveteen rabbit how toys become real. It happens through the love of a child – when that child loves the toy so much that his once beautiful velveteen coat becomes threadbare, his joints and seams loose and wobbly, his button eyes loved off, his whiskers gone.
That’s how it is with my books. If it’s one that’s really resonated with me, the pages will be dog eared; there will be notes in the margins and passages underlined; sometimes the spine will even be broken and the cover tattered and frayed. If my books were toys, I’d have loved many of them into real.
I also have mentors – people I look to for guidance and for an example of how to live and be in this world. Some of these folks know that’s how I regard them; but more often than not, my admiration of their lives and their work is anonymous and from afar. Many of my mentors are also the authors of those books I’ve loved the covers off. Their words have shaped my thinking. In giving voice to their own thoughts and dreams, insights and wonderings, they’ve empowered me to give voice to mine.
I recall keynoting at a women’s conference a while back. It was a wonderful experience, made even more so by the greeting I received when I arrived. The first flight of my itinerary had been delayed, which caused me to miss my connection and as a result I was late for the opening session of the conference. Yet, as soon as I walked in, a woman immediately approached me holding a tattered book in her hand. She welcomed me and began telling me how much my work had meant to her, particularly my book, The Christ-Centered Woman.
She went on for a few minutes, tears glistening in her eyes; then, a bit self-consciously, she stopped and asked me if I’d sign her copy of my book. She handed it to me, apologizing for its frayed appearance – it was definitely ragged, with dog-eared pages and lots of underlined and highlighted passages. As I held it I realized that this woman had loved my book into real. Now I was the one with tears glistening in my eyes.
Jesus announced that God’s Kingdom was at hand. That means we don’t have to wait for some distant, future time to experience it; but that it’s in the here and now. There’s mystery in that because I know our world isn’t what God dreams for it to be. There’s mystery in that because a lot of times it can be really hard to see any evidence of God’s Kingdom in the midst of the warring kingdoms of this world. But despite the mystery, I believe Jesus – God’s dream for the world is at hand; it is in the here and now even if it’s shrouded in mystery.
I believe that each of us is a crucial part of the way God works to make God’s dream for creation a reality. God works by touching people, transforming people, nurturing people, caring for people, comforting people, strengthening people, guiding people, liberating people, and God does all of it through people. Again there’s mystery, because, as I so powerfully learned, we may not ever know who God has touched, transformed, nurtured, cared for, comforted, strengthened, guided and liberated through us. Our actions – even in the ordinariness of our lives – impact others, whether we realize it our not. They’re like unseen ripples moving out from us to distant shores.
I suppose the question is, what do we want those ripples to look like? When they hit the shore of another’s life, will they reflect God’s dream for creation? Will they provide the glimmer of evidence that person needs in order to experience that God’s dream for creation really is at hand?