A Good Ghost, A Proper Scaring
Why We Aren't Going to the Art House

A Proper Laughing

"There was something that He hid from all men when He went up on the mountain to pray.  There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation.  There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."  (G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy)

We need not go far to discover evidence that God has a sense of humor.  Have you looked at yourself lately?  I have. Besides the comical physical imperfections, there is the comedy of my life --- the good that comes my way in spite of me.  Behind the tragedy that is our life, there is a comedy, and that is grace, a gift from a God of mirth.

And yet it's difficult to see, buried as it is in irony. For His part, God won't break out laughing but holds it close, keeps it in, wanting to surprise us with this great gift of laughter in the world to come.  Irony is His hint at the great laughter to come.  Frederick Buechner says it well when he talks about how "the parables  can be read as jokes about God in the sense that what they are essentially about is the outlandishness of God who does impossible things with impossible people."  The Gospel is, Buechner says, "the coming together of God in His unending greatness and glory and man in his unending littleness, prepared for the worst but rarely for the best, prepared for the possible but rarely for the impossible."  

Many of us have read the humor out of the Gospel, have forgotten how outlandish it is to believe that a Supreme Being, the Maker of Universes, would condescend to become like us, among a little people in a backwater land, a petty, humorless people mired in tradition and rules of their own making, a people who had a sorry history of lapse, of unfaithfulness.  And yet He came in that earth-bending moment of irony.

I think the best reaction to the Gospel is deep laughter.  Like when Sarah heard she would bear a child, old Sarah of creaking bones and wrinkled skin. A baby, really?  So when we consider the Gospel, reflect on our own feeble attempts to gain our salvation, we too have to laugh at the gift we've been given.  Eternal life, me?

When Chesterton said God's mirth was hidden, I think He meant to tease us, to provoke us.  Maybe he prompting us to look beneath the tragic for the comic.  Drill down and see grace.  Look up and consider the great laughter of Heaven that awaits.  Laugh and say with the Psalmist, "what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:4).  Are you laughing now?