Charles Schultz is one of the more well-known names from the twentieth century. Last month saw the final Peanuts cartoon at the conclusion of fifty years of publication. The Peanuts characters are perhaps the best-known of all cartoon characters throughout the world, being syndicated in over 100 countries around the world. Charles Schultz died just before publication of his last cartoon.
Feted at the end, Schultz faced mountains of criticism about his artistic ability during the early years of drawing. People did not like his simplistic drawings, suggesting that they were no better than a child could draw. But Schultz persisted, and the characters he drew became not only household names, but images with which many identified. Their struggles were the struggles of ordinary human beings. The strength of the cartoon lay in its ability to touch upon such basic human feelings as those of failure, uncertainty, insecurity, and the need for acceptance and friendship.
There was much of Charles Schultz's story in the Peanuts cartoon. The little red-haired girl who was the unrequited love of Charlie Brown's life (itself a reflection on Schultz's own youth) is based on Schultz's own first love, who similarly rejected his approaches. Evidently they maintained a friendship from the time they met.
But there was a deeper reality that emerged in the Peanuts strip: it was Schultz's platform for ministry. It was his way of proclaiming the gospel. From the stories of the lives of these children emerged the deeper story of God's grace. A story which only gained such a wide impact because of Schultz's persistence amidst opposition.
There is little to commend Schultz as an artist of merit (at least on drawing ability alone), yet his willingness to persist with something he believed God was calling him to do was a platform for ministry spanning half a century.
While the Peanuts characters story is closed, with no one to continue drawing the strip, the message of Schultz's life steps forward as testimony to the grace of God.
One does not need to be artistically talented to be faithful to God. It is persistence that is important. It is highly likely that none of us will ever have the breadth of impact that Schultz had, but that should not deter us from sticking with what we believe we can do. For a no-hoper, Charlie Brown sure achieved a great deal. Perhaps there is hope for no-hopers like us!
February 27, 2000