"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."--Proverbs 17:22 I love my kids. They are good for me. Each of them make me laugh with their goofiness. I think they must get it from my husband. As the years have gone by, I notice that I have laughed less and less.
Not that I started out that way. As a kid, I remember doing some pretty goofy things with my siblings and friends. One of my unique talents was making up stories with stuffed animals and they were quite silly. At least the younger friends liked them and asked for more!
But as the pressures of performance and good grades and the seriousness of choosing a career and proving that I could succeed in it came into my awareness, I quickly realized that life was not as easy and carefree as it once was. I know that I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I still do it today.
This is one of the growth areas in my life that I sense the Lord wants to work in me. Only in recent years have I been able to laugh at myself. Not surprisingly, it is these moments that helps me to connect with those I wish to serve. Who wants to be with someone who thinks she's perfect anyways?
I think this must be true for my husband too. Who wants to live with a high-intensity, super-serious woman for the rest of his life? Yes, there are bills to be paid, chores to be done, kids to take care of. We need to prepare for our future, provide for our children, serve the Lord.
Yet, I do not think that God intended for us to be dry, poker-faced, and stoic either. What are ways I can give the gift of laughter? A few ways come to mind:
1. Lighten up!
Like I said, I tend to take life seriously. But one thing I can do is learn to appreciate once again the lighter side of life---funny body noises, corny jokes, and silly stories. These are easiest for me if I have time and space in my life to simply be present, not racing ahead to get as much as I can done every day. So often, my interactions with my husband are like business transactions. What if I took the time to enjoy him on a regular basis just simply for the joy of being together?
2. Choose joy.
If I could picture Jesus, I think He would have laughed a lot. Not because life was a bowl of laughs. I'm sure He saw his share of death, pain, and sadness all around Him. But rather than focusing on these things, He chose to see life with the eyes of joy. In fact, it for the joy set before Him that He was able to endure the cross with its pain. (Heb. 12:2)
As I seek to imitate Him, I hope that I will not just be silly, as when I was little, but to be able to see life with the eyes of joy. I know that life will not be easy. In fact, right now, I feel anything but joyful. I had just sat down to work on this Sunday's lesson (which I have not finished preparing yet) when my husband asked me if I could sign our refinance papers this afternoon. I had already put things off all week with the move and was looking forward to finally getting a chance to work on things. To say I feel frustrated was an understatement.
But as I think about what I wrote yesterday about being flexible, along with today's gift about laughter, I can see that this very situation is an opportunity for me to give both, not grudgingly, but to make the most of this opportunity to ask the Lord to help me find joy and to enjoy the time together with my husband and family.
3. Find hope in the future.
Our friend, the "Proverbs 31 woman" can "laugh at the days to come." (v. 25) Can I? When I look ahead, what do I see? The mounds of paperwork I need to sign this afternoon or the key to the home that we are wanting to build for our family? Do I focus on the car ride in traffic and a late dinner or do I think of time with the ones I love? Taking the even longer view, am I able to see God's hand in our future or do the inconveniences of today cloud over the hope in our future?
I guess it's all about perspective: Is life's glass half full or half empty? I tend to look at it as half empty myself. Being joyful and giving the gift of laughter is truly a discipline at times. And yet, as with some of the other gifts I shared, this is one that benefits me just as much as it does my husband.
Only God can give us the joy we are looking for. Only He can help us to find the lighter side to life on this earth. Only He can helps us to laugh at the days to come. But when we do so, we can brighten the life of our husbands and children and give them a gift that will bless them, even when life is difficult or uncertain.
Let's choose joy!