“Out of My Mind” from September 1967 issue of Eternity
by Joe Bayly

John Updike, contemporary American novelist, describes his parents as “inclined to laugh a lot, and examine everything for the fingerprints of God.”

Laughter is a gift of God, a good gift.

I think most of us, especially in the household of faith, don’t laugh enough. Especially at ourselves.

We live life deadpan. We hit every problem head-on, without the light release of laughter.

To me, one grace note on the Day of Pentecost was Peter’s reply when the disciples were accused of being drunk.

Had we been in his place, I think we’d have defended our Christian respectability: drunkenness is a sin; the Old Testament condemns drunkenness; we obey God’s Word. Therefore (drawing our morality skirts about us), you insult us by calling us drunkards. We live the separated life. We drink nothing stronger than coffee/Coke.

Not so Peter.

“Look,” he said, “it’s too early in the day to be drunk. Now we have something of supreme importance to tell you.”

Maybe they laughed. At least Peter gave a light reply to a serious charge. And the lightness permitted him to get on with his redemptive business.

God has a sense of humor. I’m persuaded of it.

There are the ordinary evidences, such as His design of camel, dolphin, penguin, and monkey. And middle-aged men.

But there are the laughing spots of history as well, ancient and modern.

Such as that monastery filled with monks who have taken the vow of silence. Those monks spend long hours in their cubicles reflecting, meditating, seeking the presence of God.

In the kitchen is the cook, a man who has to forego the vow of silence–after all, someone has to cook three meals a day, scrub the pots and pans, deal with tradesmen. Sorry about that, Brother Lawrence. Somebody must be worldly. Unfortunately that’s your personal job assignment.

God must have laughed when out of that kitchen—not the cubicles of a hundred monasteries—came the great devotional classic of the late Middle Ages.

I think God must have laughed when Wheaton College—not North Central or Elmhurst or the University of Chicago—was presented with the bones of a prehistoric animal (much more prehistoric than Wheaton’s constituency would suppose), discovered in a local peat bog.

And when Oral Roberts University built an infirmary.

When Hollywood filmed “The Ten Commandments.”

And an Italian Communist produced that most biblical of modern films, “The Gospel According to Saint Matthew.”

When television came along, permitting Christians to catch up an the movies they had missed during the previous 20 years.

You add to the list. Or maybe you’ll want to subtract an item or two as not laughable.

Laughter is a personal thing. What seems funny to the British isn’t funny to most Americans. And the standard of humor even varies from family to family.

Any good gift can be perverted. There’s the danger in humor.

Our laughs can hurt a person created in the divine image. Laughter can destroy.

Laughter can also short-circuit times of potential value. Have you been in a Christian gathering, perhaps after church on Sunday night, when joke was piled on joke, ad nauseum, until any possibility of spiritual fellowship evaporated?

Some Christians cover up their real feelings, even their real personalities, with the mask of humor. Perhaps we fear that others will not accept us as we really are, so we must cover ourselves with the garb of a clown.

Life begins and—in most cases—ends with tears. In between is the possibility for laughter, especially for those who “examine everything for the fingerprints of God.”


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