I felt frustrated over my lack of knowledge about the Zoom app’s settings. When it was Asher’s turn to present his video about Geography, the video wasn’t audible on the shared screen. In a much-panicked state, I tried but couldn’t quite figure out what went wrong. I felt embarrassed on that day. I began to criticize myself for being so dumb. I didn’t turn on my video for the rest of the session. I wanted to hide. The only thought that was crossing my mind was, “what would other moms in the home school community be thinking about my lack of technical skills??”
Well, that was not the first time I criticized myself. I have been doing it often whenever I felt I was not measuring up. Whenever I felt I was not doing my best. Whenever I compared myself with others. Whenever I thought I was not being an efficient educator to my son or not being a good parent or just a person in general. And recently, I’d allowed my lack of technical skills to define myself and ruin my entire day.
As the self-criticizing, belittling thoughts began to build up inside my mind, a beautiful story came to my rescue. It was a story of a wooden boy named Punchinello about whom my son was sharing on his presentation day.
Punchinello was one of the Wemmicks (wooden people) who lived in a village. The Wemmicks were carved by a woodworker named Eli. Each one of them was very different but they were made by the same carver and lived together. Each one of them had a box of stars and dull grey dot stickers. All-day long, they would stick these stickers on each other. The pretty ones and those with special talents got stars. But those who were less attractive or less talented got the dull grey dots.
Punchinello would try to jump high like others, but he would always fall. It would scar his wood and people would always give him dots. He would try to explain why he fell and in doing so, he would say something really silly. Then the Wemmicks would give him some more dots. After a while, he had so many dots that he didn’t want to go outside. He was afraid of getting more dots. People would mock him saying, “He only deserves dots. He is not a good wooden person.” Punchinello began to believe them.
Until one day he met a Wemmick named Lucia who was unlike others. She had no grey dots and shining stars. It wasn’t that people didn’t give her stickers, it’s just that the stickers didn’t stick on her.
Punchinello wanted to be like her. So he asked Lucia how she did it. Lucia suggested he go meet Eli the woodcarver who made all of them. She also meets him every day and spends time talking with him.
At first, Punchinello didn’t want to meet Eli. But he desired to be like Lucia without any stickers. So he decided to meet him. He walked up the top of the hill where Eli lived and at last, he reached Eli’s workshop.
Eli greeted him with a warm welcome. He was so happy to see Punchinello.
“Hmm, looks like you’ve been given some bad marks.” The maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the grey dots.
“I didn’t mean to Eli. I tried hard.” Punchinello explained.
Placing his hands on Punchinello’s small wooden shoulders, Eli comforted him saying “Oh, you don’t have to defend yourself to me, child. I don’t care what others think about you and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give you stars or dots? They are 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.”
Punchinello couldn’t believe someone would love him just the way he was. He wondered why he would be special to Eli when he didn’t have any skills of jumping high or walking fast. He wasn’t even good-looking. His wood was all peeling off.
Punchinello didn’t realize that Eli loved him because he belonged to him.
With much curiosity, Punchinello wanted to know why stickers don’t stick on Lucia. He wished to live like her. So he asked Eli about her.
“Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.” The Maker answered gently.
“I am not sure I understand,” Punchinello said.
Eli smiled. “You will, but it will take time. You have got a lot of marks. For now, just come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care.”
Eli lifted Punchinello off the bench and set him on the ground.
“Remember,” Eli said as Punchinello walked out the door, “you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.”
Punchinello did not stop, but in his heart he thought, I think he really meant it.
And when he did, a dot fell to the ground.
Tears began to form in my eyes as Asher continued reading the story. I could so relate with Punchinello. It’s not that people gave me dots but it’s just that the dots I had were mostly given to me by myself. It’s not that I didn’t go to my maker to know that I am special to Him, but I had taken His words at their face value. I knew that I matter to Him regardless of what I think about myself but I hadn’t applied His words in my day-to-day thoughts.
You see, it was not enough for Punchinello to just visit Eli for his dots to go away. It wasn’t enough for him to just listen to Eli’s thoughts about him. His conviction in Eli’s words was the most important act. As he walked outside, he believed what Eli said was the truth he needed and this is when the dots began to fall.
Whenever the self-criticizing thoughts emerged, all I needed to do was to choose God’s thoughts about me; His thoughts which are full of His love, truth, acceptance, and grace. Whenever I felt I was failing at something, all I needed to remind myself was that God has given me the abilities for the things He has called me to do. And this is when my dots would start to fall.
The familiar scripture of Roman 12: 2 gives us a glimpse of how we can choose our Maker’s message in our daily thoughts whenever the dull grey dots come towards us. His voice sure rises from the pages of His Word which is the exact expression of His will for us.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.“
Renewing which means renovating is a scientific term. Renewing is a continuous process. Dr. Caroline Leaf the well-known Cognitive Neuroscientist says that when we choose healthy thoughts daily, we re-wire our brain. The brain is neuroplastic. It changes to its environment. What we allow into our brains, through the choices we make with our minds, can change the structure of our brains for good or for bad.
In this context, as we learn to renew the way we think, when we choose to ponder on God’s thoughts about us, we can change the structure of our brain for good, the change that in turn will impact our thoughts, words, feelings, and actions. Our minds influence our brains and our brains are wired for love. In simple words, good thoughts equal a healthy mind and bad thoughts equal a messy mind.
We live in an ever-changing and perfection-centered world that constantly bombards us with a message – You are not enough. It’s natural that when we don’t acquire a particular skill, when we make mistakes or when we fail at something, the same message we begin to give to ourselves is “I am not enough”. It’s easy to give in to these voices allowing them to take root inside our heads and belittle ourselves. It’s easy to stick those grey dull dots on ourselves. It’s easy to hide ourselves like Punchinello did. But we always have a choice. Further, our wonderful gift called “Mind”, which is a unique gift of God to each one of us, has the power to choose our Maker’s message for us over the world’s message or our own. And His message always says – You are enough!
When we choose His message in our daily thoughts, when we say yes to His love and truth, when we choose to believe that we are not a mistake, when we believe that what God says about us, He really means it, the dots will surely fall.
Story Source: Children’s book – You Are Special written by Max Lucado