I was recently reminded of the children’s book You Are Special by Max Lucado. In the story, wooden people called Wemmicks (made by the Master woodcarver, Eli) went around every day, all day, handing out stickers to one another. Star stickers represented applause, and dot stickers represented disapproval. The main wooden character, Punchinello, attracted a lot of dots from the other wooden people for his clumsiness and unattractiveness, which eventually led him into self-induced shame, condemnation, and insecurity. Punchinello knew there had to be more to life than desiring star stickers from others, but he couldn’t see a better way….until he met a stickerless wooden figure named Lucia. The book reads, “It wasn’t that people didn’t try to give her stickers; it’s just that the stickers didn’t stick.” Punchinello was captivated by the idea that someone could live above the approval or reproach of others, so he asked Lucia how she did it.

“’It’s easy,’ Lucia replied. ‘Every day I go see Eli.’” Hesitantly, Punchinello decided to go see Eli, the Master woodcarver. Ashamed of his dot stickers, Punchinello approached Eli hesitantly and sat before his Creator. And Eli said, “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.” Incredulously, Punchinello responded, “Why do I matter to you?”

“Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders, and spoke very slowly. ‘Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.’” Punchinello realized that as he focused more on the love of his Creator, the opinions of others mattered less. And his stickers, over time, began to fall away.

Nowhere have I seen the sad outcome of relying on people’s approval or reproach more than in the women’s prison where I serve. Looking into the eyes of many of the women, I can see a lifetime of “dots” given by others and the self-condemnation that ensued. Please understand that I’m not excusing the crimes committed, but my goal in going into the women’s prison is to help the women take their eyes off the disapproval of man and put them onto the approval of their Heavenly Father. If they can manage to get a glimpse of His love for them, everything changes. He is the Creator; we are the Creation. His opinion matters; ultimately, ours – and that of others – does not.

“At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him…” (1 Timothy 6:15-16a, NLT).

If we, as His Creation, can manage to take our eyes off one another and put them on Him, we have a much better chance at living a “stickerless,” love-infused life.

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