Lately, I’ve been having a fairly Punchinello kind of year, folks.
Actually, he’s probably almost my “spirit animal” at this point; I relate to him just that much.
Who, you may be asking, is this mysterious Punchinello? Well, if you have not grown up with the blissfully illustrated children’s books by Max Lucado, I’ll tell you a bit about him.
Punchinello is a Wemmick– a kind of wooden person (sorta like a puppet except NO STRINGS ON ME, plus more free will, etc.) living with many other Wemmicks in a village. Everything and everyone there is made by a local craftsman carver, Eli, who lives up in a large cottage on a large hill, overlooking this village and valley ‘o Wemmicks. (I’m pretty sure most of you get the spiritual allegory in this sense by now, but I’ll get to the really important point soon, I promise)
Each and every day, Wemmicks go about their daily business, doing what they do best– giving out stickers to other Wemmicks from a box. The talented, pretty, intelligent, sparkling Wemmicks are often covered in gold star stickers, literally lathered in praise and admiration for their talents and appearance. Others, however, are not so fortunate– ones like Punchinello. They are either viewed as “ugly,” ungifted, stupid, etc, and are constantly slapped with ugly gray dots as a result. This passage breaks my heart:
“Punchinello was one of these. He tried to jump high like the others, but he always fell. And when he fell, the others would gather around and give him dots. Sometimes when he fell, his wood got scratched, so the people would give him more dots. Then when he would try to explain why he fell, he would say something silly, and the Wemmicks would give him more dots. After a while he had so many dots he didn’t want to go outside. He was afraid he would do something dumb such as forget his hat or step in the water, and then people would give him another dot. In fact, he had so many gray dots that some people would come up and give him one for no reason at all. “He deserves lots of dots,” the wooden people would agree with one another. “He’s not a good wooden person.” After a while Punchinello believed them. “I’m not a good Wemmick,” he would say.” (Lucado, 8, 10.)
If it didn’t occur to you by now– the stickers are the equivalent of people’s comments and opinions on you. The stars, of course, are all the nice things they say– compliments, praise, even flattery. The gray dots are the put-downs, the insults, the slander, the gossiping, the cruel, back-stabbing comments.
I may have mentioned my MBTI type, INFJ, but I don’t believe I’ve ever confided my Love Language (the way I feel loved/affirmed by others) with most of you, so here it is: Words of Affirmation. The same as Punchinello’s, by the looks of it.
You see, I am seldom affirmed verbally at home. Most of the time, I would get told off for whatever stupid thing I did, or what I was supposed to do. (My mom’s is Quality Time, and my dad’s is Acts of Service. You see where some of the conflict is?)
It got to the point where my perfectionistic self would mentally scream at me every time I messed up, and those people WEREN’T around to tell me I messed up.
The result? I felt exactly as low as Punchinello, even at college. Even at work. Part of me craved verbal affirmation, longed for it; yet part of me balked at the hope. At the wishful thinking. Sometimes I got pleasantly but genuinely surprised to be affirmed, to be told that I actually did a good job on something; I still do to this day. At one or more of my jobs, I sometimes cower a little, inwardly, if approached by a boss or manager– my first reaction isn’t, “I wonder what they want?” but, “Oh, great. What did I mess up this time?” I feel like I’m stupid, an inconvenience or bother to some. Often, I feel incompetent– like I can’t even do retail right. It’s the terrified, cowering puppy inside me. She wants to be patted on the head, loved on, told she’s a good girl and helpful to at least some, ANY degree, but has been condescended/ yelled at so many times she gets guarded and even defensive. When I realized God was showing me the connection between Punchy and myself, I was actually on the verge of tears. And it takes a lot to get me to break like that.
To continue Punchy’s story, one day he meets a unique Wemmick, one who is apparently resistant to the adhesiveness of either stars or dots. Curious and fascinated, Punchy asks her her secret to being without any marks– not wanting any at all on himself. She states that it’s simple– every day, she goes up the hill to quite literally meet her Maker, Eli, and visits with him. When asked as to why, Lucia simply and mysteriously suggests Punchy should check it out for himself.
Even after many initial doubts, Punchy makes up his mind to go, being sick and tired of people making judgements on each other, holding value in solely each other’s opinions. That evening, he goes to see Eli. He almost loses his nerve, almost turns tail, but is stopped by Eli calling his name; Eli is genuinely pleased to see him, and asks him to come closer so he can have a look at him. Punchinello does so, and Eli thoughtfully notices the dots. Punchy, embarrassed, starts to ramble off excuses about trying so, so hard…
Then, Eli says,
“”…you don’t have to defend yourself to me, child. I don’t care what the other Wemmicks think.”
“No, and you shouldn’t either. 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.” “(Lucado, 20.)
(Will someone stop cutting these dumb onions?!)
Punchy makes more excuses on how he’s a nobody, that no one cares, and asks why he matters to Eli, to which Eli solemnly answers, “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.” Punchy looks at him in awe, realizing no one has ever, ever said or thought that about him before. Eli tells him that each and every day, he’d been waiting for Punchy. Punchy explains about Lucia, and they discuss the mysterious answer of why the stickers don’t work on her:
“”The sticker only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.” ” (Lucado, 24.)
Punchy doesn’t understand how the two can coincide, but Eli reassures him that if he comes to see him every day, and let Eli remind him how much He cares.
So, if you’re like the perfectionistic, and/or people-pleasing me, and this world’s got you hanging by a thread… If people are cutting you down verbally, and you think you just can’t take it anymore… If you’ve spent your existence looking for someone Who will not only affirm you, encourage you, but support and be there for you 100% of the way, no matter how far you travel, where your calling takes you, or what others may say about you and/or said calling…
“Remember… you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.”” (Lucado, 26.)
And, as Eli says this, Punchy starts to believe it… And a single dot falls off him.
You are special and loved simply because you were created by Someone Who loves you deeply and passionately. He can show you your true value in His eyes, if you’ll only let Him do so. 🙂
Lucado, Max. You Are Special. Kindle version. Crossway Books. 1997. Wheaton, IL.