There was one completely unexpected influence in my life that helped me see myself the way God sees me.
Of course, escaping middle school solved a lot of those fun identity problems, but it was a children’s book that helped me most of all.
One day while sitting on my bed, I was reading some old children’s books I found while scavenging through my trunk. I must’ve been 16 years old at the time, and I remember it being a good day to reminisce on my childhood.
I spotted the book You Are Special, by Max Lucado, and I picked it up. I knew I liked the story, but I couldn’t remember all that it was about. So I opened the book and started to read.
Fast forward 10 minutes and I’m literally bawling alone in my room.
I knew I cried easily, but really? A children’s book?
I guess God just works in funny ways. So yes, sometimes the book your uncle gave you at age 2 is all that He needs to turn your world upside down.
I grew up thinking that this story by Max Lucado was cute and nothing more. Meanwhile, I had completely missed the analogy that is made—the analogy that I desperately needed to hear as a 16 year old girl, sitting alone on my bed.
The story talks of a village of wooden people who go around giving each other stickers every day. The smart and talented and pretty ones get gold star stickers. Those who fumbled their words or had chipped paint are given gray dots.
Max Lucado walks the reader through the life of Punchinello, a little wooden boy who is only ever given dots. He writes of how ashamed little Punchinello feels.
But one day, Punchinello meets a wooden girl named Lucia—and Lucia is different from everyone else, because she wears neither the gold stars nor gray dots. Punchinello wants to be like her, so he asks how she does it.
The answer is simple. Every day, Lucia goes up the hill just outside the village to see Eli, the woodcarver. Punchinello is nervous, wondering whether this Eli (whom he had never heard of) would even want to see him.
But he gets over his fears and finds his way to the woodcarver’s home. He is overwhelmed by the size of everything in the woodshop and is about to leave when he hears the deep voice of Eli call out to him by name.
Eli sees the dots that Punchinello wears everywhere he goes, and he mentions them. Punchinello tries to defend himself, ashamed once more, but Eli assures him that it is not necessary.
Eli reminds Punchinello that it doesn’t matter what the other wooden people think. Eli made him, and he thinks that Punchinello is very special, just the way he is.
In Eli’s eyes, Punchinello would not be more special if he could walk fast or jump high like the other wooden people. To Eli, Punchinello is special because he made him. And Eli does not make mistakes.
Punchinello was so touched by the way Eli looked at him, as though he meant everything he said. Eli told him to come back every day so he could let him know how much he cared. And as Punchinello walked out of Eli’s door, a look of wonder and a smile on his face, the most amazing thing happened.
One gray dot fell to the ground.
It was then that the problem became oh-so-clear. My stars and dots were skewing my vision and pulling me down…and they weren’t even mine to hold on to.
Part 2 of “You Are Special” can be found here! If you are holding onto the gold stars and gray dots you’ve been given, you’re not alone. Keep reading to hear the beautiful lesson God shared with me through the simplicity of a story meant for kids :)