I was about 12 when I went to Northern France on a school trip. I had never been abroad before so this was really exciting. I had hoped we would fly, but of course it was just a coach down to Southampton and Ferry to Cherbourg. When the time came to go it I was so eager to get there it wouldn’t have matter if we had swam the channel, it was just fantastic to be outside the UK for the very first time.
We travelled through the night to board an early morning ferry , and it seemed as if we were on the coach for hours. To my surprise most of my class mates were fast asleep by Birmingham. I on the other hand was as high as I kite and buzzing to see France. We stopped at a service station and a quiet call went up for anyone who wanted to use the bathroom. I got off and wandered around a bookshop, and decided to buy a book to read. It wasn’t a carefully chosen purchase, rather a quick grab before we had to embark on our journey southwards. When I was seated I started to read.
It was a story about a group of friends, who despite their differences sometimes they got on well, and other times they let each other down. The main character tried hard to be liked and accepted, but sadly his friends would often let him down and even turn on him. The main character desired that his friends should be winners, and he would always encourage them in every way he knew how, but they always ended up losing together. Nevertheless, they would pick themselves up and start again.
This book made me laugh out loud at times, and it made me cry. I fell in love with the characters and the relationships that were playing out. One character was very outspoken and made many enemies as she was not very tactful; another character was rather dishevelled but he was very wise, and the group accepted him just as he was. This book was about working together, coping with failure, building self belief and believing in others. It was about acceptance and perseverance, determination and love.
For the next few years that book shaped who I was. The main character became my hero. While my friends had the Osmonds and Bay City Rollers on their bedroom wall, the main character on that little paperback book was plastered all over mine. In him it felt like I had found a soul mate and soon I purchased more books about these people and read them all.
What was this book? Well I believe it was called “Good Ol Charlie Brown”; and it was the first of many books by Charles Shultz that I was to purchase. I did go on to collect everyone, and every book that was written concerning the Peanuts characters for many years following. The gospel of Peanuts, and the Parables of peanuts were really helpful to me in my developing theological understanding, for the writer started where I was at and used what I loved to illustrate major lessons I needed to learn about Gods love for me.
In one of the first Peanut strips Shultz shows Charlie Brown walking by two other characters, Shermy and Patty. They respond when they see him coming: “Well here comes ol Charlie Brown”; as he gets close they each call out “Good Ol Charlie Brown, yes sir”, and as he disappears out of sight they say; “How I hate him”. At times I feel quite unsure how people see me, and what lasting impression I make, but the encounter with God is that He really loves me regardless. Thanks Charles Shultz that you taught me that lesson so very often.
Thank You Father, you love and accept me just as I am, and despite what other people may say behind my back you affirm me right now as your precious and beloved child.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again that lessons about your grace can be found in the most surprising places, May I always be open to discover you.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!