A week or so ago, Travis Prinzi posted on Facebook a bedtime prayer his young daughter prayed a week or two ago:
God is good, God is great.
Funny things are everywhere.
You need to go to sleep.
There’s a whole worldview in that little prayer.
I am thankful for jokes and funny things. I believe they represent more than a break from life’s “serious” matters. By preventing us from taking this life too seriously, funny things remind us that there are things that are much more serious. In light of heaven’s weighty joys, how can we help but treat the things of earth with a certain levity? Indeed, we place ourselves in grave danger if we take this world or our own selves too seriously.
Funny things soften us to the possibility that joy is a greater force than sadness or hurt or even death. The gospel vision of the universe is a comic vision, overturning the tragedy that seems to have its way wherever we look.
I love what Frederick Buechner has to say on the subject of the gospel and comedy:
“Blessed are those who see that, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, [Jesus] is who he says he is and does what he says he does if they will only, at admittedly great cost to their pride, their common sense, their sad vision of what is and is not possible in the stormy world, let him do it. Blessed is he, in other words, who gets the joke.”
And more from Buechner:
“The Gospel itself as comedy–the coming together of Mutt and Jeff, the Captain and the Kids, the Wizard of Oz and the Scarecrow: 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 the impossible. The good news breaks into a world where the news has been so bad for so long that when it is good nobody hears it much except for a few. And who are the few that hear it? They are the ones who labor and are heavy-laden like everybody else but who, unlike everybody else, know that they labor and are heavy-laden. They are the last people you might expect to hear it, themselves the bad jokes and stooges and scarecrows of the world, the tax collectors and whores and misfits. They are the poor people, the broken people, the ones who in terms of the world’s wisdom are children and madmen and fools.”
Funny things are everywhere, reminding us that, in the end, this story we’re living turns out to be a comedy rather than a tragedy. This world’s little absurdities may not be absurdities at all, but glimmers of a deeper joy that this world’s sorrows are hardly able to conceal.
Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we’ve ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.