Never Lose Your Sense of Humor

A pitfall of the Christian life

[This one’s a bit long, so buckle up…]

It’s one of the things my dad used to always tell me… Never lose your sense of humor. He’d remind me of this from time to time amidst the sketchiest of seasons of my childhood… During my mom’s cancer diagnosis, prolonged treatment, and death. During the foreclosure of my childhood home. When we couldn’t afford to fix our car and had to walk to the store and buy food with food stamps. Etc.

No matter what happens, never lose your sense of humor.

Now, he wasn’t always a cheery person. In fact, he had a horrible temper and lived with various demons of his own. But when the storm clouds broke, he was always up for a laugh. Always up to look at the big, scary thing and have a good guffaw in hindsight.

He passed away seven years ago, but it’s one of several phrases of his that I’ll take to my grave, for sure. The risk of losing my own sense of humor is something I’m very cognizant of and I’m thankful he hammered this notion into my head from a young impressionable age.

I’ve noticed — especially as I’m attending seminary and immersing myself in the Christian Way — that it’s reeeeally easy to do this. To slip into a false sense of piety and self-importance. To think that the goal of being a Christian is to single-handedly save the world and make everyone conform to my righteous ego ideal. To act from a place of guilt, projecting my self-blame onto others. 

Now, I get it. There are times to be serious — even somber. To take a stand and say the hard thing that needs to be said. And some people do the rage-against-the-machine thing really well (it’s a blessing, for sure). But for me, it’s just not my style. Sometimes, I can do it when the Spirit hits me just right. But when I veer too far out of my lane, things get weird. I kinda start to forget who I am in all of this. 

Now, I’m not blaming anyone else. This is a universal human problem. An ego problem, if you will. It’s easy to let my ego tell me that the best way to be a Christian (or anything — fill in the blank) is to be better at it than others.

And this is bullshit. Because, what does this even mean? Better at what? Pretending like I don’t make mistakes? Living the lie that I say and do all the right things and my headspace is a garden of blessed divine flourishing with nary a wayward thought or desire?

Living like this murders one’s sense of humor and depletes our character. It makes us into a cold, drab, pale, prickly, aching, lifeless shell.

I digress…

It’s so funny, in class, sometimes my fellow students who’ve been Lutherans their entire lives will break into an impromptu song that they learned from Christian youth camp. It’s endearing —and I say that earnestly! But I didn’t go to youth camp when I was a kid. Hell, I didn’t even go to Sunday school. I barely went to church. I’m not a lifelong part of the Christian club and my insecurity makes me want to overcompensate at times. To ‘be more Christian’ — again, whatever that means. This is how the ego functions, out of self-preservation, especially in a tribal setting.

I have to remember that being a ‘good Christian’ (in the world’s terms) isn’t the point of — well — being a good Christian (in the gospel sense). 

People who self-identify as ‘good Christians’ are dangerous, no matter where they fall on the American socio-political spectrum. 

Pretty sure that being a good Christian actually means never losing sight that we are ALL fumbling and flawed — albeit divinely loved — human beings.

The point of the Christian faith isn’t to be ashamed of being a human, but instead to celebrate the realization that having it all figured out is the divine job description, not mine.

How did being a Christian become so heavy? It’s Jesus who said that if we follow him, we’ll find rest for our souls. He said that his yoke is easy. I thought that Christ came to finish the pissing contest of piety. It’s amazing how we’ve kept it going +2000 years later. I think our problem is that we’ve tried to rip the yoke from his shoulders and carry the weight on our own — each one of us flexing and straining more than the next one. No thanks, Jesus… I got this… Gaaaah!!!

The way the gospel puts it, Christians should be the easiest people to be around, ever. We should be quick to publicly laugh at our foibles and missteps. 

And so, here’s my confession for when I get heavy-laden and become drawn in by the curse of piety and self-rightness. I’m not a ‘good Christian’. No, I haven’t killed anyone nor have I done anything even remotely rebellious in years (I’m the most boring person ever, sad but true). But I’m SO fumbling through this thing just as you are, stubbing my toe and stuttering through it all as I go.

Is there any other way?

I’m blessed to be a part of this Christian family. I pinch myself that I’m on the vocational track towards ministry every single day. And I pray that I remember to never lose my sense of humor as I stumble along.

Amen.

Grace & Godspeed,
Jonas