Until I met Ben, my ideas of England and its citizens were caricatures.
When I pictured England , I thought of “Bobbies” patrolling the street and people who tipped their hats and called you “guv-nor”. In my picture of England, everyone drives on the “wrong” side of the street and they prefer tea to coffee. I think of idyllic scenes of Big Ben and the White Cliffs of Dover. They have a Queen instead of a president, and Parliament instead of a Senate and Congress. Although I sometimes enjoy watching Monty Python, I confess I sometimes don’t get the point of “British humor.”
Oh, um… I mean humour, of course.
My idea of an Englishman spanned from James Bond to Andy Capp; from Hugh Laurie to Benny Hill. But although I met and talked to several people from the UK, I didn’t really know a “real” Englishman until my daughter Christina began dating Ben.
Ben isn’t a cartoon. He’s a real and caring man who believes God has called him to move to the USA and begin a ministry here, some day. He’s not clear on all the details, but he’s sure it will be in the USA. So it was natural that his interest would be piqued when he met a group of missionaries from the USA . And when he met my daughter … he says he was hooked from the start.
Christina wasn’t so sure, at first. She wasn’t even sure why she was “stuck” going to England . She’d applied to go to Ireland ; land of her ancestors. When she’d heard the missionary group had rerouted her team to England , she’d almost dropped out.
“Why would I want to go there?” she moaned.
“I don’t know, Christina,” I said. Then, my Mom voice took over: “God must have a plan for you, in England.”
“Oh, puh-leez.” Such was her answer to many of my Mom-pronouncements.
But she didn’t drop out and she did meet Ben, and she must have been somewhat hooked, too, because the next thing I knew I was hearing about “this nice English guy” who’d be visiting her, in the USA . And then most of her conversations involved him and their prayers for a possible future together.
So, now, for me, England has a face – and that face has a name. Ben’s a real person who makes me laugh; who makes my daughter smile; who charms my husband with “real English tea” (which, to me, tastes just like Lipton) and whose speech I sometimes can’t understand. Some of the things I imagined about England are true, according to Ben.
But after I met Ben, I realized something which should have been obvious to me: in each of the countries of the world, where I tend to think of the citizens as caricatures, are men and women just like Ben; real people who I’d enjoy meeting if only I got to know them. Before Ben, my thoughts of England remained confined to the box of my caricatures and if I gave the country any thought at all, that thought was just as cartoonish as my vision of its people.
Do I have to know a person from each country in order to pray for that country or for its missionaries? It shouldn’t be that way. But, if I frame my prayers within the narrow box of my perceptions, those prayers will necessarily be limited by those narrow perceptions. So, the next time I pray for the people of any other country, I hope I remember to let the Spirit lead me to pray for the real people and needs of that country.
I think Ben would say that’s “too right.”
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