Laughter. It is both healing salve for our souls and the most potent weapon against “pious piffery.”
Laughter’s very existence ranks as one of the highest tributes to the Creator’s skill and a delightful glimpse into the character of the Divine.
What kind of God do we have? One who delights in creating flightless birds like ostriches even as he makes squirrels that can fly. We have a God who sends his Son to poke fun at the pious who point out specks of sawdust in folks’ eyes while looking around 2 X 4s in their own. He laughs at those who scrupulously wash the outside of their dishes but leave last week’s dinner sprouting mold inside.
What an amazing blessing when at the very moments we begin to take ourselves too seriously—always proof that we’re not taking God seriously enough—our Creator sends some good-hearted soul into a dour committee meeting or to a cheerless table. God sneaks in some joy, tucking it into a warm human heart and springing it on us by surprise.
Wonder of wonders, just one good chuckle, the precursor of a tsunami of laughter, suddenly washes across our souls, and what moments before was a corpse-like meeting or lifeless meal desperately in need of burial, suddenly lives.
Eyes were glazing over. Backs were bending under a weight of pomposity. Grace was in danger of literally being ruled out. Then out of a healthy heart, a laugh erupts and the previously flat-lined EKG of the meeting peaks up into a mountain range of life and mirth. Against all odds and often even against propriety—since laughter was on no one’s agenda (except perhaps God’s)—breath returns, scales drop from eyes, and something like vision, and maybe even hope, bursts onto the scene, defying all of the best bureaucratic and sanctimonious attempts to keep real life and joy locked outside.
It is no accident that tyrants, bureaucrats, and Pharisees are utterly terrified of joy. Its shining spire, laughter, is the visible tip of an iceberg that, ironically, melts good hearts even as it plunges sanctimonious souls (sanctimony is a very heavy thing) down to a watery grave.
When I slip into taking life too seriously and even the dog ducks when she sees me coming, I like to spend time with 1) kids, and 2) authors who are truly good at thinking and at laughing all at the same time.
Author G. K. Chesterton had a world-class laugh and a universe-class pen. No one has ever turned a phrase like the rotund “apostle of common sense.” I just read a piece by Ron Ratliff recalling an incident when Chesterton was having trouble getting into a horse-drawn cab. The cabbie suggested that he try turning sideways. Chesterton responded, “I no longer have a sideways.” I’m told that he distrusted cold, hard, thin people. Me, too.
When life is getting hard and cold and pitched sideways, God’s gift of laughter, straight from His heart of joy, lifts it right-side up.
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Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.