Big Bird just turned 40. Six months older than me but aging much better. My only consolation is that he’s still learning his alphabet (and I’ve pretty much got that down).
But the most popular Sesame Street friend at our house is Elmo. Pronounced Melmo. Not sure why the “M” is invisible, but every child I’ve known under the age of 4 has called him Melmo and I frankly don’t have the energy to debate with a preschooler. (And, well, it’s just so cute, why would I want to correct them?)
Brady’s Elmo once looked like this. (This special portrait was done by my niece Kaitlin.)
Now he looks like this. (Warning: Due to the graphic nature of this photo, it may not be suitable viewing for children or furry monsters.)
I hear gasps of horror coming from toy boxes around the world.
This former Tickle Me Elmo hasn’t laughed in years. Passed down from two big sisters, Brady and Elmo became buds early on.
No other stuffed friend would do. Believe me, we’ve tried to expand Brady’s social circle. Elmo has been to doctor’s appointments and Disney World,
school activities and sister's slumber parties,
grocery store runs, library reading time, and trips to Guatemala.
He provides comfort, security, and companionship like no other.
Unfortunately he hasn’t aged as poetically as the Velveteen Rabbit. He’s been washed numerous times to keep the Centers for Disease Control from running tests on him. His intestines leaked out and he lost his eyeballs when a friend’s dog mistook him for his chew toy. His deteriorating condition has earned him nicknames such as Industrial Accident Elmo. At one point his box of batteries connected with wires began to hang out of his nether regions, thus he was given the name Colostomy Bag Elmo. (I don’t think this one would market well.)
But I relate to Elmo. Sometimes after a long day, I look over at him and know just how he feels. Worn out and emptied, used as an emergency Kleenex, missing most of my original parts, and broken. There are times that I feel loved to pieces . . . by my kids, by my husband, by my friends, and even by God.
Well, a few months ago, my metaphoric twin was lost. We couldn’t find him anywhere. We retraced steps, called stores, distributed flyers, and offered a reward (okay the last two we didn’t really do but we were close).
Days passed with Brady absolutely distraught that his “Ruined Elmo” (as he affectionately calls him) was missing. One night I was trying to convince him that it was okay that the old Elmo was gone because we could get a new one to love. He pleaded that there was only one Elmo that he would ever love and he could never be replaced. I asked him why he was so special and he replied with an answer I wasn’t expecting from someone in Thomas the Train underpants: “He’s special because he is always wif me. He’s special because he ruined himself wif me.”
Gulp. I did a rewind of his words: “He’s always with me . . . He ruined himself with me.” Or even better: “He ruined himself FOR me.”
Hmmm. Maybe I was seeing my analogy upside down. Perhaps it is my Savior, the One I cling to for comfort and companionship, the One I feel lost without when I feel He’s not near, the One who is too special to be replaced, . . . the One who “ruined” himself for me. And if I am to be in His image, then emptied, worn out, and broken just brings me closer to understanding who He is and how He loves us. For this is what it truly looks like to be “loved to pieces.”
We did find our sweet Elmo, praise God, and he is now under house arrest (not taking any chances of losing him again). And when I look at Elmo snuggled up with his buddy (smiling even though he’s been reduced to an orange nose with some red threads dangling from it), I remember that being loved to pieces isn’t such a bad thing.
P.S. Today is Veteran’s Day. Few people exemplify Christ’s sacrificial love as beautifully as the brave men and women who serve our country. Thank you, veterans, for your service, for your sacrifice, and for you willingness to be “loved to pieces” for our freedom.
This post is linked to The Finer Things in Life Friday because there's nothing finer than being loved.