I love attending church at Orchard Hill in Cedar Falls for so many reasons. I love that it is the place that Beau and I chose as our home church, together, the place where we first started our life, where we baptized our son, and the place that impacted the foundation we would build for our family today. I love the music, the feeling I have when I walk through those doors on Sunday, and the closeness I feel to the people there, even if they typically see more than a 1000 people each Sunday. And more than anything, I love how they teach about Jesus. I love how each Sunday, I walk away feeling closer to Him, challenged to live more like Him, and blessed to be loved by Him. Never have I felt God so accessible to me, so real, as if He's a close friend, listening, understanding, and desiring to help, love, and guide me through this complex, sometimes hard world. He's strong and powerful, omni-present and eternal, and after Sunday's teaching, I learned of one more of His many attributes.
I won't go into the details about the context surrounding Pastor Tim's sermon on Sunday, but I will say that his message hit home with Beau and myself maybe more than any teaching I've absorbed at Orchard. The fact that God, this all-powerful, all-encompassing, and sometimes, seemingly statuesque being has a sense of humor, baffled me. After all, what does this mean for the formalized, almost rigid traditionalist structure of Christianity? What does this mean for how I talk, how I pray, and how I approach my relationship with Him? Why is God as a humorous God important, just as God as a loving God, judging God, and father God is?
Pastor Tim gave us his rationale for this theory, and provided many examples of how this idea may indeed clash with some of our more traditional views of God. After all, weren't many of us taught to take God seriously, to not speak, let alone laugh in church, and to approach God with a sort of removed reality, as if we are approaching a king? And although it is highly important to take our relationship with Him seriously, I don't think we can truly appreciate Him if we fail to see his humor.
Aside from being good for our bodies, good for our minds, and good for our well-being, God's humor and love of laughter can be found in three very distinct parts of our existence.
1. We see it in scripture.
When three angels appeared to Abraham, a man in his hundreds, who would later go on to rule nations and be one of God's most faithful followers, and told him his elderly wife Sarah would have a child, he reacted as most would. He laughed (Genesis 17:17). He and Sarah, who were unable to have children for years, responded as any of us would if we were told something we never in a million years saw coming. Here, Abraham, and later Sarah (Genesis 18), responded in the most human, most candid way possible, and the Bible includes that response. God responds by calling them out, saying 'Is anything too hard for the Lord?' Here, two humans, just like us, stared at God's truth in the face and responded with laughter. They questioned, they responded, and they later saw his grace when they saw truth of his faithfulness and power. It was through laughter that they responded to God, and a year later, when their first son was born, what did they name him?
Isaac, which means, laughter.
2. We see it in creation.
It's in that seagull we watched for hours on the coast in Mexico, dive bombing the Gulf head-first trying to catch him some lunch. It's in those baby chicks, desperately trying to keep up with their mama, trailing and tripping behind her. There's humor in a pig, sleeping soundly on its side, unaware and unconcerned of the colony of flies making a home on its belly. There's humor in an aardvark, or a duck-billed platypus, or a penguin, or yes, even the sad, Eeyore face of a donkey. And most of all, God gave us laughter in these little people that surround us with joy and fill us with happiness. I am blessed to have one to laugh at every day of my life. After all, if a baby's laugh doesn't bring a smile to your face, I don't know what will!
I laugh at Cruz every day, and the thought of God laughing with us is amazing to me, whether it's watching him move his hips and get down to a verse in 'Five Little Monkeys' at story-time, or how funny he looks eating a plate of spaghetti. And the more we laugh, the more gratitude we can show for these amazing beings in God's creation.
God strategically placed funny things all around us because laughter is good for our souls. The sad part is that so oftentimes, we become too busy, or too distracted to take the time to notice, let alone laugh at these things. It's true that the world is full of hurt, and our lives feel full of stress and worry and fear, but the truth is, God is there for us always, so sometimes we just need to lighten up and laugh. I wonder what our world would look like if we'd all laugh a little more.
3. Finally, we see it in our lives. I have a feeling that years after Abraham and Sarah had their son, they sometimes sat back and laughed at the way God worked in their lives. At the course their life went, the lessons they learned along the way, and the amazing, unique road map that all fit together like a perfect puzzle in the end. Our lives work like this. Each little moment fits into our own unique puzzle, and so oftentimes, we can't see the importance of that timing until years have passed.
Beau and I do this sometimes. We think back to our days in our little duplex, back when the world seemed to be ours. When we'd spend two hours cooking a dinner that would now take us twenty minutes to prepare, and then spend an hour washing dishes in our kitchen, drinking wine and dancing to Frank Sinatra as if nothing could get better than that moment in time. Our duplex may have smelled funny, we were swimming in college debt and credit card bills, and had no idea what our future would look like in a year, let alone a month, but we were young, fairly stupid, and madly in love.
We can't help but laugh at that picture of us five years later. Where we've come, what we've learned along the way, and how rich our lives feel today. The power of perspective and retrospection are so amazing that sometimes all you can do is sit back and laugh in wonder. I may not be Sarah, pregnant with my first child at 100 years old, but I am awestruck when I think about my journey and the big and small pieces that put it all together.
I never dreamed that at 28 years old, my relationship with God would grow into one that included laughter. I can feel him working in my life through so many moments, and I need to learn to laugh at myself more, at my imperfections, my stress, and my attitude. After all, it's the best medicine, the universal language, and the key to forever youth.