Our neighbor recently loaned our kids a book that I haven’t read in ages. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read it to them since they were babies. It’s one that may be familiar to you, but it’s message is one that we probably need to be reminded of daily.
The book is titled You Are Special, written by Max Lucado, and it tells the story of a group of wooden people, called the Wemmicks, who are all carved by a woodcarver named Eli. No two Wemmicks are the same. Yet instead of this being celebrated, the Wemmicks give each other stickers based on what they think of one another. The ones with smooth wood and pretty faces are given star stickers. Those who are less pretty and rough around the edges are given gray dot stickers.
The same thing happens when it comes to talent. Some talents are thought of more highly than others, and so the Wemmicks who can do things like lift heavy sticks or sing pretty songs are given stars. Those whose talents are not as obvious or valued are given gray dots.
Punchinello was one of the Wemmicks who had dots all over him. When he did something clumsy, or said something silly, the other Wemmicks would give him more dots. And sometimes they gave him dots for no other reason than the fact that he already had so many. Because of all the dots, Punchinello didn’t think he was a very good wooden person.
But then, one day, he meets a Wemmick who has no dots nor stars on her at all. In fact, if one of the Wemmicks tried to give her a dot or star, it simply fell off. This is so strange to Punchinello that he asks her how she does it, and she tells him simply, “It’s easy. Every day I go to see Eli.”
Eli is the woodcarver, the one who made each of the Wemmicks in the first place. And though it takes him awhile, out of curiosity, Punchinello eventually goes to see Eli. He isn’t sure what he’ll find or what he’ll say when he gets there, but when he arrives, Eli knows exactly who he is right away and greets him by name.
At first Punchinello feels like he has to defend the gray dot stickers that he has all over him, but Eli interrupts, and tells Punchinello that what matters most is what he, Eli, thinks of Punchinello. “And I think you’re special,” Eli says, “because I made you.”
Punchinello asks Eli why he matters to him, and Eli replies, “Because you’re mine.” He then goes on to tell Punchinello that the more Punchinello is able to trust in Eli’s love for him, and what Eli thinks about him, more than anyone else, the less the stickers will stick to him. Punchinello isn’t really sure about it at first, but as he is leaving Eli’s shop, and thinks in his heart, “I think he means it,” one of his dots falls to the ground.
In my opinion, this is a message we all need to hear. That we matter to God. That we belong to God. That we are beloved, forgiven, made whole and redeemed, because of who God is. So often, our worries, our fears, and our sense of insecurity keep us from living in and out of this truth.
What’s more, we live in a world where there are numerous messages coming our way every day trying to tell us who we are or what we need to do in order to be important, special, worthy, and enough. But just as it was for Punchinello, striving for affirmation from external forces or people will never make us feel whole. Because, it’s what the One who created us thinks about us that matters most. And it’s who God says we are– and the identity that we have received in Christ– that leads to life.
The more we trust in this identity and in God’s love for us– the more we turn to God for affirmation and to be reminded of who we are rather than seek affirmation through success or wealth or power– the more we will experience the freedom and the fullness that God desires for us. It’s there that our hearts are tended, we experience peace, and where we can let go of the pressure we’ve been putting on ourselves to be and do it all.
It’s by being filled up with God’s love for us, warts and all, that allows us to be generous and compassionate in our interactions with others rather than get caught up in competition, comparison, and other things that deteriorate our sense of community and shared humanness. As God says to each of us through the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) May this reality be the one in which you live and move and find your being.