Laughter, On This Most Unusual Of Good Fridays

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

None of us could have planned this six months ago.  If we had tried, we would have been disregarded as alarmists at best, and conspiracy theorists at worst.  And yet, here we are.

We remain trapped in the present.  Many of our past plans and dreams are at least set aside if not gone.  Our future remains clouded in doubt.

The present has frozen us into an uncomfortable inaction, alone in a closet of growing anxieties.  We want “someone to do something” to fix this, all the while demanding everyone stop doing everything. 

The irony of paradoxes in our frozen state of endless 70-degree snow days is laughably not funny.  And yet, we have to laugh.  All the while, it’s OK to cry too.

One of the conscious changes I’ve made during this time is abandoning my pledge to spend less time on social media for Lent.  Instead, I’ve been more intentional in trying to create more moments of humor mixed with sharing results of experimental cooking. 

Being raised southern, I’ve found food has always been something that can bring people together.  There is no better place to find common ground than a shared table.  At a time when so many of us are forced apart and isolated, sharing a meal virtually is the best we can do most days.

As for the jokes, some would argue that now is not the time.  People are hurting.  Illness isn’t funny.  The ranks of our country’s unemployed are growing faster than ever.  Owners of prosperous businesses just two months ago now wonder if they’ll ever be able to re-open again. 

Meanwhile, despite us being frozen in time, life – and death – has gone on.  My heart aches for my many friends who have lost a loved one during this time.  A funeral with less than ten people, and without hugs, just isn’t right. 

Others have loved ones they’re not able to see in nursing homes or hospitals.  A close friend’s son attempted suicide and is clinging to life as I’m writing this.  His parents haven’t been able to see him as hospitals now can’t allow visitors.  Tragedy is being added to tragedy as we’re now unable to act as we’re supposed to do in our most trying, most vulnerable moments. 

It was agonizing to read another friend’s account of a nurse holding a phone to her step-dad’s ear so her mom could say goodbye as he slipped away due to coronavirus.  She had been bravely posting regular updates as to what it was like to have one loved one hospitalized, and two others quarantined and “presumed positive”.  All of it was virtual, with no comforting and reassuring personal contact.

These are serious times.  These are not laughing matters.

But we laugh.  Because we must.

I can’t recall a Good Friday service where the message was ever about laughter.  In the Christian Church, it is the most somber ceremony of the year.  

Today is about mankind turning its back on God. It’s about the consequences of leaders who bow to the noise of the crowd instead of having the courage to do what it right.  It’s about choosing to execute a savior when the opportunity to eliminate a murderer was an option. 

Good Friday is a reflection on the darkest of times and the innate fallibility of man.  It is the execution story of the Light of the World.  The people, given the option, chose darkness.

Were the story to end here, there would be no laughter.  Yet this isn’t the time for the gnashing of teeth.  The story of Good Friday isn’t about the dark sadness of the present.  It’s about the coming Light.

Years ago my journey as a writer began in the comment section of a political blog deep into the late night hours.  I had failed at everything that was then important to me.  I was sitting in a mostly empty house awaiting its foreclosure.  I no longer even knew who I was, much less what I was supposed to do next.

My completely unplanned response?  It was to start making jokes over the internet.

Laughter, in the middle of serious discussions during serious times, became my best medicine.  With all prior doors closed, my anonymous screen name was a new outlet.  It was not burdened with my mistakes of the past, or the pressing and mounting problems of the present. 

It literally took me years to realize it, but the new identity was my future.  It was a pathway to wipe away the past, reject the darkness, and laugh along the way.

It began as nervous laughter. Laughs masked the tears.  It was a way of lashing out and pushing back.  Too often it was laughing at and not with participants.  At its core was pain and hurt.

It was, most importantly, the beginning of a long journey.  Laughter lit the way out of my darkest times.  On most days now, my laughter is rooted in peace, even on days when there is little joy.

You can’t appreciate the view from the mountaintop if you haven’t seen the valley.  It’s difficult to appreciate the gift of Light that is Easter if you haven’t experienced the darkness of the tomb. 

This Good Friday seems especially dark.  Easter Sunday will be unusual and unconventional in our observance.  The darkness of a pandemic and the economic challenges it continues to bring will still be with us on Monday. 

This Good Friday afternoon, as darkness begins to fall, we need to laugh. We don’t cry for the sins of the past that are now forgiven, as they are irrelevant.  We instead must laugh at the ridiculous stone that thinks it can contain the Light – even if this means laughing through our tears.

During the time between crucifixion and Easter sunrise, I’m sure Jesus’ disciples and followers seemed like they too were stuck in the present.  Their hopes and expectations from Palm Sunday were already a distant memory.  Their concerns about the future and their personal safety were in doubt.

Easter changed all of that.  The darkness gave way to Light.

We will continue to have rough days after this holiday weekend for the foreseeable future.  What we must remain conscious of is that there is light ahead.  While we do not yet know when this will happen, we must laugh at the present, and the ridiculousness of it.   

Our Easter promise is this:  Our past does not define us, and our present is not permanent.  The darkness of today will yield to brighter days ahead.  This may not have been our original plan, but for people of faith, we must trust there is a superior plan already designed for each of us.

May you and yours be safe and comforted in this most unusual of Good Fridays. Easter – and the Light it brings – is coming. Let us laugh more together along the way.

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