One of my favorite “children’s” books is You are Special by Max Lucado. The book is populated by wooden people, the Wemmicks. The Wemmicks are pretty judgmental! They give gray dot stickers to people they find lacking – nose too big, wooden bodies chipped, can’t walk fast, etc. They award golden star stickers to people they find beautiful or exciting or lovable. The main character of the book, Punchinello, is covered with gray dots. He was even given a gray dot because he had so many gray dots! Punchinello is mourning his status when he meets Lucia, who has no dots or stars. When he voices his dismay about all the gray dots that cover him, Lucia sends him to see Eli, the woodworker who created all the Wemmicks.
Eli has been alerted that Punchinello is coming to visit and greets him warmly, calling him by name. During the conversation, Punchinello complains about his gray dots. Eli responds, “Who are they to give stars or dots? They’re Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.“
Punchinello is astounded and asks Eli why he thinks he is special. Eli says, “Because you’re mine, that’s why you matter to me.” And then Eli goes on to explain why Lucia doesn’t have any stickers on her body. “She decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.”
We live in a world of Wemmicks, led by our President, who give gray dots and nasty names to anyone and everyone who doesn’t meet their particular standards. Like Punchinello, we often feel beaten down by other people’s judgments on our looks, our character, the color of our skin, our income levels. Any excuse will work if someone is driven to hand out gray dots. We also award our own gray dots to people who we believe need our critiques. Sometimes we give them out just because we are mean-spirited or because we want to make ourselves feel better.
Our Maker also calls us by name. He reminds us that he made us and we are his, and therefore pretty special. He teaches us that the stickers only stick if they matter to us. “I care about you and that’s what matters.”
At the end of the story, the woodworker says, “Remember you are special because I made you, and I don’t make mistakes. Punchinello thinks, “I think he really means it.” And just then a gray dot falls to the ground.
Apprentices of Jesus are in the business of helping people shed their gray dots and making them feel like stars. But we can’t do that until we cast off our own stickers by recognizing that God’s opinion of us is the only one that matters. Can you believe in your Maker’s love so much that you can cast off your stickers? And who is your Punchinello?