A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs is not always my “go-to” book of the Bible, but on this particular day, I found comfort in this one.
There are a thousand reasons to be concerned right now, and a million more that seem to be lurking offstage, just waiting for their grand entrance. And yet, for all the dire news and fearful developments, the internet is filling up with just as many silly memes, jokes and puppy videos. Is there something more here than just denial and distraction? Is there something inherently healthy, maybe even spiritual? I think so.
Raised Catholic, I was familiar with Baker’s “Lives of the Saints,”a book with hundreds of mini biographies of Christians whose lives each uniquely pointed to the goodness of Jesus. Interspersed with those bios were some truly weird and funny quotes. Lawrence, martyred in 258 AD by being burnt alive supposedly said, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” Thomas More, beheaded by Henry VIII is quoted saying to his executioner, “Assist me up. Coming down I will look after myself.” These guys take gallows humor to a whole new freaky level of mic drop.
I’m pretty sure that some of these quotes are purely apocryphal, but the message is clear; not only is there room for laughter in the most grim moments, it’s an essential tool for getting through them. Humor, not at the expense of others but at the expense of our own fears, gives courage. Humor that puts us all in the same boat reassures us that we’re not alone. Humor cuts away at the bindings of worry. It takes the long view. It flips the bord in the best possible way. You can’t obsess over your problems and make fun of them at the same time.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” I suspect a few of them thought he was a little off his game. During this I’m supposed to rejoice? C’mon, Paul..that’s just silly. And then he goes on, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Well now that’s just ridiculous. Foolish. Dumb on a stick. Unless it’s…true. Unless it’s a radical way of taking a stand against fear and insisting on joy.
It’s worth a try. Got a red rubber nose somewhere? How about some wind-up chattering teeth? Or you could do like I do and dance in public – but at a safe distance, of course. Believe me, that always gets me a laugh, and it’s good for my waistline, too. Post a meme. Tell some dad jokes. Get up with a bedhead and stay that way.
March right out there and keep your bones from drying up – nyuk nyuk nyuk!