A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)
Several years ago, I went to a training at St Luke’s about dealing with stressful situations and providing healing care. One concept discussed was the difference between stating a situation is serious verses important. When one states that a situation is serious, you have limited the use of humor or lightheartedness. When one tries to bring humor into a situation that is deemed serious, your humorous attempt is received with rebuke and sometimes scorn. How can you laugh or make a joke at a time like this? The seriousness of the situation demands a serious response. We must get this right, we have no time to waste on humor or new ideas.
On the other side, if you say a situation is important you allow the introduction of humor, which not only relieves tension, it opens doors to solutions that might at first seem unusual but ultimately provide useful insight.
Suppose you were one of the disciples whom Jesus told to feed the five thousand who gathered to hear Jesus and needed something to eat. A serious response would be are you kidding me, be serious, we can’t feed five thousand with two fish and five loaves. Send the people away and have them find their own food we can’t be bothered with such an outrageous thought. Feeding this many people is serious business.
Yet Jesus invited them to take the need of feeding the people as important but not so serious that it limited their imagination. Can you see the humor and playfulness of Jesus in his statement to the disciples; you feed them with what we have? Was Jesus smiling as the disciples collected the food only to discover there was food left over from their small offering? Imagine passing the food out and seeing how more and more people were fed.
In this time of uncertainty and stress, it feels like our spirits are being crushed and our bones are drying up. It is easy to get locked into the fear and stress of this day, and by doing so crushing our spirits. To take our present situation as being too serious for humor. While I would agree that our actions and thoughts are important during this uncertain time, I do not agree that humor should not be part of strategy we use to deal with this moment. That maybe we come up with new options and learn to laugh at ourselves we will free ourselves to image something new.
I invite you to take a humor break each day. Watch a funny movie, search some jokes on the internet, dress up in strange clothes and laugh at yourself in the mirror. Do what you need to do to each day to laugh, to dance, sing, lifting your spirit and opening yourself up to what is not yet known. While taking time to laugh may not solve our current situation, who knows maybe we will be able to feed five thousand with two fish and five loaves. If not, we will at least have our spirits lifted up with a good laugh, a happy spirit and a heartfelt song on our lips.
O God, in these times of stress, fill us with your wonder and grace that we might have our hearts filled and have a word of praise on our lips, Allow the gift of laughter to fill our homes and our lives that we might be open to your overflowing love and presence in our lives. Give us the imagination to believe that by the power of your Holy Spirit, we can feed five thousand with only two fish and five loaves.