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Monday, December 19, 2016

You Are Special

I am a people-pleaser.  There.  Now you know.  It may be because of the whole "compliant eldest syndrome", it may be growing up with parents in full-time ministry, it may be just how God made me.  There are positives to being a people pleaser; when I'm on my game, I am generally well-liked (I think), which gives me opportunities that people who just don't care may not get.  I almost always have great working relationships with my superiors, and my life is pretty conflict-free.  There are also some negatives, like worry and stress, getting embarrassed easily and over-thinking (I still cringe when I think of a really dumb thing I said at our wedding.  Ouch.)  

I feel like in today's age of social media, this is just exacerbated.  We post things on Facebook and Instagram, or on our blog, and then wait for "likes" and views to validate our actions.  I remember one time, I re-posted something, because I thought it was really funny, but no one seemed to notice it.  We're putting ourselves out there, and no matter what people say (sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me, really??), negative feed-back, or unkind/thoughtless comments can hurt.

Didn't post.  Duh.
Would've posted.  Instead I sent it to my sister-in-law, who doesn't judge, regardless.

Now that we're in full-time itineration and fund-raising mode, I feel the pressure even more.  I want; no I "need" people to read our newsletter.  There's so much work and effort put into something like that, that it feels like such a let-down if a certain number of people don't react.

So, what does a people-pleaser like myself feel?  Instead of just brushing it off, or moving on, I feel like it's a direct reflection on how people feel about me, which honestly can get me down.  (Now, I'm not saying this for you to go read our newsletter, I'm just trying to share some real struggles of mine with you.:) )

And that's when God, in his gentle tenderness reaches down into my insecurities and reminds me of one of my favorite children's books.  That's right.  A children's book.  But not just any children's book, Max Lucado's You Are Special.  This book is from 1997, so from before the rise of social media, and yet somehow Max Lucado knew what was coming.

In case you're not familiar with the book, you can watch a read-aloud here.  It starts by introducing us to a village of marionette-type wooden people called Wemmicks.  These Wemmicks are peculiar, in that they give out gold stars to those they find to be pretty or clever, or simply because they already have many gold stars, and must be "good Wemmicks".  In contrast, they give out gray dots to anyone they think is clumsy, ugly, stupid, or has too many gray dots already.  (It's understood by the reader that this is very silly behavior indeed, but does it sound at all familiar?)  The catch is, that these stickers don't come off. 

This is when we meet the unfortunate Punchinello.  He has many gray dots, which he can't get rid of, no matter how hard he tries.  Then he meets Lucia, who has NO stickers!  And when the other Wemmicks try to put one on her, it doesn't stick.  Lucia tells Punchinello to come with her and meet Eli the woodcarver.  Cautiously, Punchinello goes to meet Him.  He is surprised when Eli knows his name.  Eli tells him, "Of course I know your name, I made you, and you are special."  Eli tells Punchinello that the reason he is special is because Eli made him, not because of the stickers the other Wemmicks give him.  Punchinello has a bit of a hard time accepting this, but he begins to, and as he leaves Eli's workshop, one gray dot sticker rolls off...

I love this story not only for the overall message, but for the more subtle ones; like the fact that once you care more about what the Maker thinks than others, their stickers don't stick.  Or the fact that Punchinello isn't "healed instantly", but rather the author acknowledges that it's a process that takes time.

The phrase "you are special" has gotten kind of a bad rep.  We hear about parents who tell their child they are special, to the detriment of others around them (remember that video that went viral about the daddy's pep talk to his little girl?  The reason I loved it, was because after talking her up, he also had her repeat "I am not better than anyone, and no one is better than me"). Teachers are having to tell parents that their "unique and precious snow flake" isn't as perfect as they think.  And then there's, "if everyone is special, doesn't that mean no one is special"?  I think we have taken the meaning of "special" out of context.  

Yes, one definition is "better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual".  But others are, "belonging specifically to a particular person or place" (like our Maker?) and "exceptionally good or precious" (precious!!).
Here are some synonyms you may not have thought of, as well: noteworthy, remarkable, distinct, individual, peculiar (oh, thank God), purpose-built (yessss!!!), tailor-made, custom-built.

God tailor-made me for a purpose, that has absolutely nothing to do with what people around me think.  I don't need their validation, because I was made with God's stamp of approval before anyone else even met me.

My parents used to call me "Teflon", because as a kid, stuff just rolled off my back.  And then pre-teen years, clicks and hormones set in, and I started to care more about what others think.  Everyone always talks about "labels", and how bad they are.  Well, labels actually make me feel secure.  I am learning though, that the only label I need to worry about is "His".

I don't think it's realistic to go through life not caring at all what others think, because we would all end up alone.  And the Bible doesn't teach to disregard others, we are to "submit to one another in brotherly love" (Romans 12:10)  But that isn't where we should look to find our worth.  And this is what I am trying to learn to do.

So, I will sign off in the way Bob the Tomato, and Larry the Cucumber have so many times, "God made you special, and He loves you very much.  Bye!"

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