Do you think Jesus is funny?
Not in the sense that he is giver of all good gifts, so sure, he’s able to make others funny. Jesus himself. Do you think of him as funny?
Several years ago I realized I had a bit of an emaciated picture of Jesus, a little too meek and mild. Would Jesus cheer a runner on in a race? Sure, but could he actually hold his own in a footrace? Um, no.
When the question is limited to Jesus, we need to factor in that he was a human, so of course he was limited. Being human, he was not the best dancer, the best cook, the best doctor, the best carpenter, and the best teacher. Really only one of those do we know he was any good at.
Earlier in the week Karen shared some of her favorite TV shows when she’s in need of a laugh. I can remember the first time I saw Modern Family. I was on a very crowded plane from Bangkok to Beijing. My ipod (back in the day, people) had been stolen—in fairness to the thief, I made it incredibly easy to “lead a life of crime.” I left my ipod by a hotel swimming pool and when I returned the next day, shocker, it was gone.
My friend Anne asked her brother to buy me a new one and bring it to Thailand when he came to visit her and her family. Bless his soul, he loaded it with many TV shows, movies, and audio books. I knew nothing of Modern Family, other than it was short and I was on a crowded plane. After two episodes on my mini-screen while disturbing those around me with chuckles, outright laughs, and body shaking due to trying to suppress my laughter and not be annoying, I had to go and find Anne on the plane. I was compelled to tell her how funny the show was and how annoying I was to everyone around me, due to how funny it was. Vicious cycle and all.
Maybe Parks and Rec or Downton Abbey or Modern Family isn’t your thing. To quote Jake from Brooklyn Nine Nine, “Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.” Doesn’t have to be. But do you think Jesus is funny?
If we broaden the question to the Trinity, to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, do you think God is funny?
I realized several years ago that while I could picture, say, Michael Jordan good at sports, or Beethoven talented at music, or Karen amazing at making images for Velvet Ashes, I couldn’t quite picture God as actually good those areas. I inadvertently thought of those people better than God in their respective areas.
I confused the image in the mirror with the reality it reflected. We are made in the image of God, not the other way around.
Is Michael Jordan an amazing athlete? Without a doubt, but his skill is because he is made in the image of God. A God who is fast and strong and has perfect aim and timing.
Is Beethoven a gifted musician and composer? Yes. But his skill is a reflection of God’s perfect pitch, rhythm, and ability to combine notes in such a way to evoke emotion.
Does Karen design images for Velvet Ashes that leave you in awe? On a daily basis. But her skill did not pop out of nowhere; instead, she is reflecting God’s creative eye, his ability to capture a moment, his endless awareness of proportions.
Did the question “Is God funny” make you feel a little squirmy inside? Did it seem a bit irreverent? To be clear, God is not like us, he is God and he is holy. God does not laugh at people or belittle their pain. Yet, he is also not a stern Grandfather in the sky. Anything good in us comes from him, which includes the ability to laugh.
God has given us three humor-gifts when it comes to living overseas.
1. The ability to laugh at ourselves. I learned the power of this gift at my childhood dinner table. Mom had made chili for dinner and after a few spoonfuls, Dad said, “This seems to be lacking in some body.” Turns out Mom had thawed the bag of spaghetti sauce instead of the chili! She roared as she returned from looking in the freezer and told us what happened. Instead of being embarrassed, she lead us in having a good laugh and eating a lot more crackers for dinner than we normally did.
Live overseas long enough, oh, say, more than five minutes, and this gift will help you lighten your load. Trying to explain I had seen a mouse to my Chinese mama just weeks after I had arrived, I kept telling her I had seen a teacher. She didn’t seem all that interested or concerned. Oh people, the list of “laugh at yourself” moments is long, isn’t it?
2. The ability to look for the lighter to the outright hilarious. I don’t have to tell you the darkness we dwell in. Broken bodies, broken dreams, illness, the injustice that runs rampant. Just like a parent doesn’t give three or four birthday presents to a child and say, “Open them all and then choose the one you want to keep.” God doesn’t make us choose between honoring the atrocities we see AND looking for the lighter and funnier moments. He lets us have both.
3. The ability to be woven together with a shared laugh or joke. You know the saying, “That family that prays together, stays together.” Prayer isn’t the only uniting factor; and if prayer is done primarily out of obligation because “that’s what good Christians do,” it will be a weak bond. I believe that the marriage, family, friendship, or team that laughs together, is more likely to stay together than that ones that only pray together.
God is the giver of good gifts and I’m so thankful that laughter is one of them!
Where have you laughed at yourself recently? When has seeing the lighter side helped lighten your load?
P.S. I’ll be out of wifi or cell coverage for a couple of days, so will engage with your comments and thoughts when I get back. It’s not that I’m ignoring you :).
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