Laugh a Little
Do you have a friend that you know by their laugh?
Even as I write this I have a couple laughs ringing through my head that bring a smile to my face. You know the laugh. That you could be anywhere, hear it, and immediately associate it with the individual.
Laughter is meaningful. It is memorable and so deeply personal. And I need to confess, that too often I am a serious individual. Not until recently did I actually even consider how laughter or humour was part of my faith.
I find it fascinating that when a publisher was looking to extract specific selections from the works of C.S. Lewis they landed on the title The Joyful Christian. A man with some of the most deeply profound and intense literary writings was known for his joy. Terry Lindvall writes that “C.S. Lewis was a court jester…he was a man of laughter and surprises, of jokes and joy.” This isn’t to say that he was a comedian, but rather that he had, “a veritable inner vat of wit and humour that constantly bubbled over with the wine of laughter.” I love this.
If we are honest when we are reading a Christian text or hearing a sermon, the last thing we are looking for is laughter. Our expectation is that we will be confronted with truths, ethics, and other serious issues with appropriate decorum. I grew up with the notion that humour had a place in the church but it’s role was mostly as an additive. Lightheartedness was ok, but not to the point where we could be accused of not taking God seriously. It was almost a conflict between the fear of God and the joy of the Lord. I could say a lot about this, but what I want you to know, is that my stance has changed.
I believe that laughter isn’t salt on the fries of religion, but rather an essential ingredient for a healthy, balanced Christian life. Or better yet, laughter is a necessary pillar in every church community. I know that this is something I deeply desire for our own at City Collective.
I’m not contending that our talks around faith or in our gatherings should be comedy shows, but rather what I am trying to lead us towards is a conversation of how laughter is essential to our faith. In a lot of ways, laughter is a key ingredient to a healthy perspective of God. A church which sees humour as purely irreverent, is susceptible to be driven by a fear based theology.
If you believe that God is always judging you, there isn’t much room for fun. However, if we come to the realization that God isn't waiting to smite us but has already forgiven us, well that changes everything. As individuals and as a community, the manner in which we include fun and laughter in our lives reveals something about our image of God.
When we know that God accepts us despite failures, we can enjoy our freedom in Christ, we can laugh at ourselves, and in turn, laugh at our mistakes, rather than allow the negatives to rule our minds.
Studies show that we can use humour to put our fears into perspective. Humour addresses the same issues as fear, not dismissing them, but strengthening our ability to confront them. Our fears and our faith are constantly at odds and is a constant struggle. Yet in regards to our faith, Jesus calls us to have child-like faith. And when I see stats that show that the average four-year-old laughs 300 times each day, while the average 40-year-old only laughs 4 times, I have to ask: Are we missing something?
C.S. Lewis defines the two experiences or manners of getting to truly know something. One manner is to know about something - “savoir” - to examine, study and analyze it. But he recognized that there was more to cracking the human dilemma of knowing. In “Meditation in a Toolshed,” Lewis notes a second method - “connaitre” - to enjoy, become acquainted intimately, to experience, and become immersed in it. He writes, “you cannot study pleasure in a moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humour while roaring with laughter.” It's part of being present.
A community which is founded on the truth and grace of Jesus MUST laugh together. It isn't optional. Joy is fundamental to the very essence of God. When Nehemiah writes "the joy of the Lord is your strength" it is an assurance that our strength is not from within but from Him. It's a truth that plays out in the reality of life and a gives us hope that we can live in His overflow of joy. Laughter is part of our discovery of God. This isn’t ignoring the harsh realities of the world around us. It’s actually our response. The gospel is a serious matter with incredibly important implications, but this doesn’t negate God-given lightheartedness and humour. My heart is that we would find the important balance between the serious and humorous. Humour is disarming, it cultivates humility, is welcoming, and ultimately keeps us grounded. It is necessary for us as individuals and as a community.
It's ok to laugh a little.
If you are looking to read more into this subject these are some great resources to consider:
Surprised By Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis, Terry Lindvall
The Role of Laughter in the Christian Life, Terry Lindvall
Between Heaven and Mirth, James Martin
The Humor of Christ, Elton Trueblood