Stars and Dots

In 1997 Max Lucado released a whimsical storybook for children entitled You Are Special. It was a book that I grew up on, and I still remember the moments when my dad would pull out it out and start reading to me the story of a little wooden Wemmick named Punchinello.

"Wemmicks?" You stare at me blankly. "Punchinello? Say wha?" Ohhhh yes. The Wemmicks. Those silly little wooden people who, to my knowledge, have yet to discover any real worth apart from stars and dots and probably to this day know next to nothing about how much their Maker loves them. And Punchinello. Ah, Punchinello. The saddest Wemmick of all who taught me and dozens of other 90's kids that, well, "You are special."

The premise of the book is simple: what's most important is what God thinks. However, instead of spelling it out in so many words, Lucado decided to use an ingenious illustration involving little wooden people called Wemmicks. They're all special, of course, but seem to need validation from each other to find any real worth. This validation comes in the form of stickers in the shapes of dots and stars. When a Wemmick performs a noteworthy deed, such as singing the most beautiful song or balancing precariously atop a stack of wooden crates a mile high, the other Wemmicks gather around him and reverently apply the star stickers. However, for those who trip on pavement stones or just can't seem to skip a rock across the water, the Wemmicks are also there to plaster the miscreant with loathsome gray dots.

Such is Punchinello's fate. He can't do anything right. He's the odd fellow tripping over the paving stones and unsuccessfully attempting to skip rocks across the water. He isn't special. He can't possibly be. The star-less bespeckling of dots all over his wooden body are enough to verify that. And he can't do anything about his gray-dotted destiny. That's just the way life is.

Until he meets Lucia. Unlike all the other Wemmicks plastered with a mix of stars and dots, the stickers just don't stick to her. Stars and dots alike fall off. And what's more - she doesn't even seem to care.

Punchinello is dying to know why the stickers won't stay on Lucia and why she doesn't care. When he finally works up his courage to ask her, she smiles and tells him "It's easy. Every day I go to see Eli."

Eli? Who is He? And why is He so important?

You see, Eli isn't just another Wemmick. He doesn't even live with the Wemmicks in their village. In fact, he lives down the road and over the hill and away and away and away.

Who is He, then?

Eli is the woodcarver.

The Wemmicks are His own unique creations, carved out with His chisel and fashioned in love to be perfectly who they are. He loves His Wemmicks, even if they have become a little preoccupied with stickers, aren't perfect most of the time despite how many stars they've acquired, and don't really even know Who He is.

Punchinello swallows his fear and timidly approaches the wood shop, desperate to know what it is about Eli that makes the dots fall off. Hearing Punchinello tiptoeing around the corner of the massive wood shop, Eli calls out, "Punchinello?" He picks a very shocked Punchinello up, sets him on the work bench, and begins to tell the downtrodden Wemmick something very important. "I think you are pretty special," He tells him.

But why is Punchinello so special? After all, can't Eli see the dots all over his green outfit? Doesn't He know that the dots mean Punchinello is useless, a failure in the eyes of everybody? How can Punchinello possibly be special?

"Because I made you," Eli gently reminds him."And I don't make mistakes."

And therein lies the powerful message of the story. Punchinello's value doesn't lie in how many stars or dots he has accumulated, and neither does our value lie in what people have to say about us. Even thought Punchinello was clumsy and unpopular, Eli loved him, because Punchinello was His own special creation. In the same way, even though we humans sin and make a general mess of things, God loves us unconditionally because we are His own special creations. And He doesn't make mistakes (Isaiah 43:4; Isaiah 46:4).
That's a significant amount of back story, but it's essential to understanding the main point of the rest of this post, namely a poem that I scrawled out not so very long ago. I was inspired by Lucado's illustration of stars and dots and consequently did what any sensible person does when they're inspired: I grabbed a pen, sprawled out on my bedroom floor, and got to it.

Stars and Dots

A star for me,
should I live 
my life in such a way
as to please mere men.
And should I fail,
they tell me so. 
For instead of a star -
shining, golden with their praises -
they give me a dot; 
all their scorn in a 
that clings to my flesh
and whispers "You are nothing."
My heart inclines to believe.
For is this not the lust of humankind,
the way we spend our eternal days,
in craving applause,
fading for lack of praise,
to be heard above the noise?
Stars, stars,
from ones who know not their Maker;
dots, dots, 
from those who do not know their own weakness.
And yet all the time,
above the noise,
He is singing,
singing over us!
If we would but cease our frantic madness,
become blind to the stars,
blind to the dots, 
deaf to the voices lying to us,
then we would hear...a song 
that makes the stars grow dim
and the dots become as nothing.
A song that declares,
"I have called you by name,
I have made you;
You are Mine!"
And then?
For even stars cannot compare 
to the brilliance of
His love. 

(See Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 43:1-4.)


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