I thought about this recently when I came across the following witty story online…
An Englishman, taking a road trip through the US, notices he’s low on fuel, pulls into the first gas station he sees. The attendant walks out and approaches the car. “How can I help you, sir?” And in a posh voice, the man says, “I’m low on petrol; please top off the tank.” With an odd look, the guy begins to fill ’er up.
The Englishman then says, “Also, while I’m here could you open the bonnet and check the oil?” Now looking slightly peeved but still saying nothing, the serviceman does as requested. “Oh, yes,” says the Brit, “It appears my windscreen needs a good cleaning. Would you mind terribly…”
Unable to hold his tongue any more the attendant angrily snaps, “Alright, that’s enough! It’s not Petrol, it’s gasoline! It’s not a bonnet, it’s a hood! And it’s not a windscreen, it’s a windshield! We invented cars, so you call them by their American names!”
And with that wonderful, charming, stiff-upper-lip UK wit, the Englishman calmly replies, “Well yes, my friend, you may have invented the automobile, but we invented the language!”
As I read this piece, I could not help but chuckle. Being an American, I speak English as my native tongue. Being a southerner, I like to think that I speak it the manner we will speak it one day in Heaven – with a certain drawl and lots of contractions!
All jokes aside, I recognize that I speak American English, not British English. I also recognize that there are various ways in which English is spoken all over the planet, from England to Scotland to Ireland to Canada to Belize to Australia to New Zealand to South Africa to India. Each manifestation has its own distinct dialect, vocabulary, enunciation, style, etc...
Still, I find that I am able to communicate with most any person from most any of these places. I may need to clarify what they mean on occasion, and vice versa; but communication can easily occur if both parties are intent on making it happen.
I say this because being able to communicate and being willing to do so are not the same thing. There have certainly been times in my life when I desired to communicate, but was unable. In many an overseas trip, I was grateful for the assistance of a translator, without whom I would have essentially been left unable to converse.
But sadly, if I am to be honest, there have also been times in my life when I have been able to communicate, but was unwilling to do so. My earthly father is in Heaven now. He’s been there for over nearly a quarter of a century. And to this day, I still miss him dearly.
One particular memory I have of my father comes from when I was a young Pastor. My calling had taken me to a community some one hundred miles from my hometown. So, my wife and I only saw our family back home about once a month or so. Yet, my father would faithfully call me every single Sunday evening around 9pm or so just to talk.
Far too often, having just preached two sermons, attended one or more committee meetings, and/or invariably spent the better part of what was supposed to be a day of rest at the church, I was quite tired. As a result, I shudder to think just how many times I failed to engage in meaningful personal conversations because my heart was simply not in it. Of course, these days, I wish I could go back and talk with him once again! I had so many chances; but sadly, there were too many times in which I failed to take advantage of them.
Of course, I can’t undo any of this now. But I can learn from it. As a husband with a wonderful wife, as a father with grown children of my own, as a friend and neighbor to many, many others, I can find ways to be intentional in my communication with others. And I can make this a priority in life while I have time and opportunity to do so.
Oh, and there is one more thing I can do. I can make sure that I take every opportunity to communicate with my Heavenly Father as well! For He, even more than my earthly father, begs regular conversation with me. Not just once a week, but every day. Not just every day, but every hour. And not just every hour, but every moment!
Given this, I am committed to do my best to follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul who told us in the New testament to “pray without ceasing” and also to “pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion”.
Let there be no failure to communicate here - not with my Heavenly Father! Let me converse with Him at all times, in all places, and with all passion!
NOTE ALSO: In the movie, "Saving Private Ryan", there is a very poignant scene where the squad is catching some sleep inside a church building, and Irwin Wade, the Medic, recounts how his mom used to come home from working a late shift and stick her head in the door just to say a brief word to him. But he would feign sleep because, as an adolescent, he just didn't want to talk to his mother.
"I'd pretend to be asleep... She'd stand in the doorway looking at me... and I'd just keep my eyes shut. And I knew she just wanted to find out about my day - that she came home early... just to talk to me. And I still wouldn't move... I'd still pretend to just be asleep. I don't know why I did that."
Later, as he lays mortally wounded on the battlefield, he cries out for his mother.