You are special!
Some years ago I visited the town I grew up in for a school reunion.
It was great to meet my old school friends again. At the same time, it felt a bit strange, as I started to wonder what they had thought about me when I was at school, and how they perceived me when we met later on. Who did they remember me as? What was I like as a fourteen-year-old?
I remember that we were divided into different groups in the class. We labelled each other and hung out with the people who had the same labels as we did. There were the troublemakers, the nerds, the tough guys, the farmers, the babes, and then us normal ones. We who were normal thought we were kind, decent, normal and best, but we kept ourselves to ourselves too and we talked about ‘the others’.
What is it about us, that we always label others and rank them according to appearance, interests, intelligence, skills and style? Why do we let what other people think about us mean so much? We get encouraged or discouraged according to how much positive or negative feedback we get.
This is the ideal opportunity to tell you about a book I’ve just read. It’s actually a children’s book, but it really captivated me. It’s about a woodcarver and the wooden puppets he has made. The puppets are alive and walk around all day giving each other either gold stars or grey dots, according to whether they are pretty, clever or popular, or whether they have flaws and shortcomings, are unlucky or unpopular. They readily give more stars to those who already have them, and those who have grey dots are often given more for no reason.
There was only one puppet who had neither stars or dots, and the secret behind this was that she visited the woodcarver every day. The main character in the book, Punchinello, decides to visit the woodcarver too, as he wants to find out why the stars and dots don’t stick to her. Punchinello is a bit nervous when he arrives at the woodcarver’s house, and is really surprised when the big woodcarver knows who he is and has even been waiting for him. The woodcarver says to him that the stars and dots only stick to those who let them mean something, and those who believe in them.
The woodcarver tells Punchinello that he is unique because he has made him, and the woodcarver never makes a mistake. He also tells Punchinello that he doesn’t care about the dots Punchinello has been given. The woodcarver doesn’t care what the other puppets think, and neither should Punchinello. The only thing that matters is what the woodcarver thinks, and he thinks that Punchinello is unique and irreplaceable. The moment Punchinello believes that the woodcarver actually means what he says, the dots fall off. The woodcarver then invites Punchinello to visit him every day, so that he can lose all the dots and avoid getting any more.
This was exactly what we were doing in our class: that’s what we people do. We label others, we give them stars or dots all the time. ‘You’re clever,’ ‘you’re stupid,’ ‘you’re weird,’ ‘you’re witty,’ you’re sweet,’ ‘you’re a nerd’ … we’re always doing it without actually meaning it that much. But the stars and dots stick to us and we start to believe the message they carry. People who get lots of stars feel good and are energised and try to get more stars. But those who are given dots can easily become discouraged, and in order for them not to feel totally discouraged they hang out with the others who have been given dots.
The woodcarver is a picture of God. He created us because He wants us. When I read this book I was reminded that I have no right to put stars and dots on people. We are all God’s unique creation, desired and irreplaceable. What right have I to label others?
God created us, He knows us and wants friendship with us. He’s waiting for us to come and talk to Him, just as the woodcarver waited for Punchinello. When we understand God’s infinite love for us, we will be cleansed from all the stars and dots that people attach to us. They actually have no right to attach them. In truth, it’s only what God thinks about us that means something, and if we believe that, the dots will not stick to us. If we don’t care what others say about us, they will not stick to us. If you know that you are unique and created by God because He wants you, then it doesn’t matter if the other ‘puppets’ think differently about you. They are also creations, neither better nor worse than us, they are just the same as us.
God wants me to ‘visit’ Him every day. He wants to spend time with me and tell me how unique I am, that everything I have comes from Him, and also how much He loves me. If I listen to God telling me what He thinks of me every day, I will grow stronger and more happy, because then His energy is powerfully working in me (Colossians 1:29).
‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! … And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:4,7).
I recommend you to find this book and read it. If you think it’s a little embarrassing reading a children’s book, you can always find some kids to read it for. :-) The book is You are Special by Max Lucado.