by Joanie Butman
Anyone with adult children has faced the dilemma of sleeping arrangements during an overnight visit with a significant other. Last weekend was my daughter’s first such visit. There was only one available room (with a king bed), so by default they would be sleeping together – not my first choice. So, I did the next best thing to separate rooms: I installed a life-size cutout of myself beside the bed. The coup de grace was the motion-activated voiceover which firmly stated my expectations, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” In hindsight, the more strategic positioning would have been in the middle of the bed so when he pulled the covers down, my face would be smiling up at him. Nevertheless, the ‘no-fly zone’ was clearly established.
Transitioning to parenting adult children is tricky business. Best to approach it with levity, my thought. My grandmother used to have an expression, “Half fun, whole earnest.” Not a bad strategy – at least in this instance. God, too, often uses humor when dealing with His ‘adult’ children. Haven’t you ever been in a situation where you just throw your hands up and say, “Seriously, God?” Those occasions are usually followed with a smile of surrender while uttering (sometimes loudly), “Point taken.” I’m hoping my guest’s response was similar.
The God I was introduced to in my youth was a stern authoritarian, ever-watchful with the same admonition as my effigy. He was definitely not someone with whom I could enjoy a good belly laugh. However, if we are made in His image, humor is an important aspect of His character. We see it play out again and again in Scripture. Who would choose a 99-yr-old to father a new nation? When he heard the news, Abraham fell facedown and laughed. Remember, this was before Viagra. When Abraham is described “as good as dead,” scripture isn’t referring to his age but his manhood. Sarah chuckled at the idea as well, but I’m not sure she actually considered giving birth at 89 all that funny – probably more like a cruel joke. In response to their reaction, God then instructs them to name their child Isaac, which means “he laughs” or “laughter.” Obviously, our divine Father knows how to be playful.
For some reason people who would otherwise oppose hearing about God, find it more palatable when served with a healthy dose of humor. Why do people think He’s always so serious? Have they never seen an aardvark, a platypus or some of His other more bizarre creations? It’s no coincidence I ended up with the surname Butman. It was simply God’s humorous payback for all those crank phone calls I made to the Lipshits when I was a tween.
There is nothing funny about the gospel message. Eternal salvation is serious business. But even Jesus wove humor into His ministry to communicate fundamental and sometimes difficult biblical truths. Rigid Christians who take themselves too seriously do more to repel others rather than attract them to Jesus. If we truly believe Christ died to save us, we need not get bogged down with religiosity. Don’t get me wrong, we should always choose to take God seriously – just not ourselves.