Okay, so there I was, see . . . Born!
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Before that, okay so there I was, see . . . curled up in the fetal position. In the womb. Ensconced. Set up real nice. Pretty sweet arrangement. Hermetically sealed. Rent free. Temperature controlled. Getting my meals piped in. Yep, it was post-zygotean bliss, all right. But then, some sort of divine discontent began to rock my world in the bosom of Abraham. Or of somebody.
Then this not-so-subtle contraction thing began pushing me around, sort of silently saying, “Hey boy, you can’t curl up in here. What do ya think this is, a youth hostel? Let’s move it.” But after only half-an-inch down the birth canal, full-bliss service was restored. Beautiful!
Until the next rude contraction. “Hey you, let’s keep it movin’, wouldja? Look, you can’t stay in here. No loitering. We’re evacuating the area.” Then they began to get downright pushy — and I got pushed out into this other Great Big Womb with all these other people in it, otherwise known as This World.
Sort of A Womb with a View.
In which I found myself in A Room with a Jew.
In fact, quite a few.
Some eccentric ones, too.
And they were all gathered around my crib. Aunts & Uncles & Cousins, oh my! And a Mom & a Dad & a Two-Year Old Brother, most of whom were bald-headed. My family had the East Coast distributorship for the Male Pattern Baldness Gene. I saw it coming soon to a noggin near me. Mine.
And they all knew it, too. But, they were leaning way over into the crib, gurgling and gooing like babies, as if my coming into a fallen world was some kind of happy deal or something. I’m telling you, this getting born the first time was upsetting. I was so traumatized, I didn’t talk to anybody for a year. But it sure was a big relief from that prenatal pressure of growing too large for the uterine neighborhood, and getting evicted. This was my first experience with rejection. It was definitely a classic case of Tension and Release. Which, by the way, is the essence of laughter. Which, dearly beloved, is what we are gathered together here in the sight of God around this page to contemplate: Comedy and Laughter – What is it? And how does light-heartedness help us be the Light of the World. This is what you want to know, whether you know it or not.
Ah Yes, Tension and Release. And Getting Thrown Out of Places. These are the classic, quintessential and primordial conditions for some humor to happen. Just ask people who study these things, the Scholarly Funniness Anthropologists (SFAs). They’ve found that the cultural funny peoples of the world are mostly those who have suffered, and have been thrown out of places. Like Jewish people. Or Black people. Or people who wear no shirt and no shoes. The ones who have suffered WHILE they were getting thrown out of places, now those people are really a stitch.
People who are forced to be “outsiders” tend to see things uniquely from that detached perspective: In it, but not of it. — Say, now there’s a downright Biblical concept! Hey, maybe we’re getting into the deep theological stuff here now, boy! Groups that were persecuted had to develop this other way of seeing things as a defense mechanism, as a way of maintaining an “us” solidarity, or else get solidly morose. Why sure, all the Scholarly Funniness Anthropologists say so. And a strong case could be made that getting born into a fallen world makes us all a little persecuted from the get-go. Warning: You have to be careful not to study “humor theory” too seriously though, because if you’ll notice, these SFAs aren’t exactly a bunch of irrepressible chucklehead thigh-slappers (ICTS). So beware; they’re rather a somber bunch, if you ask me. But give them their due; at least they’re searching for the Fountain of Laughs. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is some of them think the source is The Great Endorphin.
Now, you do have to watch out for those endorphins, though. Scholarly Funniness Anthropologists are now telling us that even Romantic Love is really just an endorphanous chemical brain-bath. Powerful stuff, that. It makes people feel like they’re in the Big-Time Love. (And then they start hankering to make a permanent decision based on a temporary state of extreme urgency, if you know what I mean. But, nobody immersed in it wants to believe about that temporary part, though.) Like it or not, it so happens that true love is a Person. And a decision. God is love, and we decide to surrender (or not). But Romantic Love, all by itself, is simulated by endorphins, estrogen, testosterone, and some chemical called oxytosin. Throw in some loose body juice from the Limpic System, and the lover and the lovee get brazenly, buoyantly positive that the Person who is the love-of-the-universe is each other. Uh,&…;Wrong-O! Tragedy in the making. Comedy in the making. Both at the same time. Because, as some smart person once said, comedy is tragedy&…; plus time. As some other smart person must also have once said, comedy is tragedy, but happening to somebody else.
Now, all this romance stuff may not seem to have much to do with the subject of laughs and being Light-hearted in a Dark World, but bear with me. Romantic love is classic for being a breeding ground for humor. (Just turn on TV any night. Better yet, don’t.) The male-female love thing is fraught with painful paradox. So intense and so ephemeral; so eternal and so not-there-anymore; so solid and so “hey-what-happened?;” so soothing and so crazy-making. That’s why that rascal, Saint Valentine, is the most suspect saint they got out there. You can’t trust the guy. (Which, come to think of it, is also true in a lot of those hormone-based romances.)
Romance is probably the world’s foremost refuge for people looking for light in the darkness. But mostly what folks find there is darkness in the darkness. Plus they get mad, because they thought YOU were supposed to be bringing the light. And you thought THEY were supposed to be bringing the light. And you know what you end up with? . . . Two ticks and NO dog!
Some disappointed refugees from romance become stalkers, while others become comedians. All this would be tragic if it weren’t so funny. And funny if it weren’t so tragic. Only the Spirit of God, the Lover of the Universe, can make a way-where-there-is-no-way through this minefield. And all those other minefields.
Comedy is sort of a defense mechanism run amok. At least, that’s how it starts for a lot of us human being types. As a mini-means of escape. A way of preparing a place for yourself, that where you are you may not be also. An ersatz method of avoiding suffering. Which brings us smack dab to the concept of suffering, which they say comedians do a lot of. We will spare you an illustration of a crying clown. (You’re welcome.) But paradoxically, laughter can soften suffering, yet suffering can deepen one’s sense of humor.
It’s almost axiomatic that many, if not most, if not all, comedians had unhappy childhoods. I’m trying to figure out a way to market Unhappy Childhoods to aspiring, perspiring comedians who were deprived of them. For those who already had one, if you can’t get out of the angst, the trick is to at least figure out a way to sell the manic to finance the depression.
Suffering must be valuable stuff, because Scripture invites us to “enter into the fellowship of His suffering.” And it actually tries to convince us that there is something ultimately joyful about it! Count it all joy, it says. Hoo boy! Jesus endured suffering for the joy set before Him. But why us? Why do we have to suffer? Didn’t He go through it so that we don’t have to? Can’t we just cut right straight through to the bliss? If not . . . uh oh, we better get a comedian in here, quick!
Yes, this fallen-world shtick gets old quick.
And so do we.
Suffering sure does one thing quite well; it helps us know what we want to be redeemed from. And it sure does focus the attention. The trick is to then focus the focus on something beyond the negativity. The Spirit of God says, “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Me.” Bringing us into what I call The Divine Ahh-h-hh! Then we get some new outer adventures to which we may apply the creative inner pool of peace. Is that great for material, or what? Everything is grist for the mill. And God is the mill. Unmilled grist is depressing. Milled grist is transformed. And transforming. In fact, it transforms the Wile E. Coyote in us into the Roadrunner, just as he runs out of cliff&…; and stays up!
Suffering carves a depth into a person so that, once he or she catches the secret of living from the secret place (highly recommended in Psalm 91), the joy can come from that very same depth. This is an amazing thing. The deeper that well, the greater the living water that can spring from it. So, we process everything that happens through the secret place — if we’re wise. What a powerful weapon to have in the warfare of love! But, if suffering is what presses us there, how many of us would never choose to enlist in this war? I guess that’s why we get drafted. (“You didn’t choose me. I chose you,” Jesus said.) From the perspective of heaven, which is where we live from, if we choose to (i.e. seated with Him in heavenly places, right?)
I don’t think we have to be in agony to be creative. Because, I believe He allows us to transfer credits. The ordeal of past agonies (whether morose or frenzied) can be transformed into the fruit of present knowing and compassion. That is, having suffered — and being willing to let go of our death-grip on it, through forgiveness — we can see deeply into others’ suffering. And this knowing serves to pay our rent in the moment, on the real edge of being. It supplants the hellish principality maintained by ages of wages of rage.
(Especially since it turns out that the Lord is the Knower, and has already paid the rent.) This truth comes to us from the inner surrender and abandon that can only be caught, but not taught.
Okay, pay close attention now. Not everybody can handle this stunning revelation: The Kingdom of God is actually a Divine Smuggling Conspiracy. It is a plot, hatched by the Creator of the Universe, to smuggle love and joy into this world. To be in this Divine Conspiracy, you have to first smuggle Love and Joy into you. That’s where Jesus comes in. (“If you will open your heart, I will come in,” He says.) And then, cleverly disguised as a human being, you live, move and have your being — but it’s really Him living through you! It looks like you, but it’s really Him. It’s Him, but looks just like you. What a great disguise! It’s perfect. Genius. Who would ever suspect? Christ in you, of all people. Just imagine, the Spirit of God in the guise of Donnie Dibbletts or Connie Shmibbletts. Or whatever your name is. Actually, in The Divine Smuggling Conspiracy we contain and express the Name above all names. However, a lot of people will let you in places where they wouldn’t let God in if they knew it was Him. Brilliant!
The Divine Smuggling Conspiracy is not something to be grabbed and grasped. It is to be relaxed into. Then we live from a center of serenity, the secret place. Then, lo, from this center, which is Christ within, we have access to the harvest of all that prior life-fertilizer, which includes all those defense mechanisms. But without the need to defend. He is our defense. The harvest is then for others. Including us. We’re “others” too, you know.
The secret place is the most wonderfully calm place from which to watch earthly human sagas and dramas. And from which to play our part in The Divine Smuggling Conspiracy. We become a wondrous manifestor of the Creator, Who created all out of nothing. And who is still creating. By us. All the time. Actually, everybody is creating all the time. Some people are creating a nuisance. Some are making a mess. Or producing a dent in the world’s food supply. And some are exuding and effusing joyfulness and smuggling it into this world. We are created to be delivery boys (or delivery girls). Of something. And we get to choose what we want to deliver. Especially since the what is a Who. Who’s on first. The main purpose of joy is to deliver what it is to where it ain’t. This is being about the Father’s Is-ness.
The whole human life thing is a process; the Lord brings us to what it is, by the default of what it ain’t. This is the front part of the gospel. The art of it is to not stay in what it ain’t when it has outgrown its usefulness, which is to press us to cry out to God: “Hey, what else have you got?!” And to receive the answer: His very Presence. To be willing to trust enough to leave amok behind, trusting that even nothing is better than something. (Those “somethings” that pass for better-than-nothing can kill you.) — He can fill “nothing.” But first, He has to stand at the door of our heart-full-of-something, and knock. And wait for all these somethings to disappoint and disillusion us, to rot, or otherwise vacate or deteriorate. A lot of suffering is just that: hanging on to dead or dying somethings, be they things, or people, or habits of thinking, or shards of previously shattered identities. Or, obsolete, outdated sufferings.
One big mistake is thinking that all these habitual sagas and dramas are our real life. Especially if we’ve never experienced anything but. But, we have to feel the deadness of life first, before we can experience newness of life. Didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit (i.e. those who feel the deadness of life), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?” In the meantime, though, we tend to get stuck in some interim antidote (wine, women, song, things & stuff, Beavis & Butthead), reaping guess what: Yep&…;more suffering! Dying to all these somethings creates a vacancy. A vacancy that Life is meant to fill. But, we think we should somehow either evade feeling the deadness, or go on feeling the deadness lo-o-ong past its purpose.
Fear of the unknown keeps us immobilized in deadness. But at least it’s comforting, familiar deadness. Mazeltov! Uh&…;what else have you got, Lord? But, if we dare let the anger, bitterness and resentment go, we dare to die to death. And come to Life.
Human life is a “come as you are” party. And we even get to choose who we want to come as. It’s like God’s Multiple Choice Exam: I place before you life and death. Pick one. Fortunately, it’s an Open-Book Test. Plus, He is right there, like a friend whispering the right answers to us, “Pssst&…;choose Life!” We human beings tend to live in fear of the unknown. Most folks fear death for that reason. And perfect fear casts out love. At least temporarily.
Another stunning revelation in the midst of all this is: In God, the Unknown is friendly.
It has been said that a lot of people long for immortality who don’t even know what to do with themselves on a long weekend. But Scripture says to reckon ourselves already dead. Die early and avoid the rush. Galatians 2:20 most succinctly makes the point. “I have been crucified with Christ; but nevertheless I live, but it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
Where there is a death, an end, or a grieving, there is sure to follow, in Messiah, a resurrection – a new beginning – and the possibility of laughter.
Jesus didn’t say, “I come that you may go to meetings a whole lot.” He said, “I come that you may have life in all it’s abundance.” Imagine if we really knew this, deeply, from inside out! And lived accordingly. Or allowed Him to live accordingly in us. Through us. As us. Bingo!: The meaning of life. Okay, we’ve just solved the meaning of life. What else would like to know? How about, “Well, what do I do now that I know the meaning of life?” Well, what would you like to do?
How would you like to smuggle love into this world. Your choice. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will grant you the desires of your heart. When I first came upon that Scripture, I had to contemplate the question: What IS the desire of my heart? It takes a while to know, you know. And it is subject to change as we go. I determined that I would like to go into all the world and have some laughs and invite people into The Divine Smuggling Conspiracy. So now I’m a traveling Messianic-Jewish Comedian-Minister Joy-Smuggler touring all around. Through Mecklenburg, Smecklenburg, Charlottesville, Harlettsville, Rockville, Hockville, Hippityville, Dippityville, Hoopdeville & Coupe deVille. Be careful what you ask for, huh?
Is it presumptuous for me to believe that the Lord likes for me to be about this endeavor? Well, when I am Spritzing the Joy Juice, I feel God’s pleasure. For me now, performing veracity with audacity, humoristicality as a ministry, is really God’s trick to get me into somebody’s life, by providing an ostensible reason to show up. In The Divine Smuggling Conspiracy, we normally need that. Otherwise, they think we’re loitering.
I think God is quietly pushing us past being visiting lecturers and outer entertainers. It’s part of His plan to phase people into The Divine Smuggling Conspiracy who have paid the price to be trusted to penetrate deeply into another’s heart.
Or, as one of the great 7th grade theologians once said: It takes one to know one. The really funny thing about it is that the old junior high school insult turns out to be true after all: “Just who do you think you are? God’s gift to the world?”
Why yes, I am. Thank you.
Written by Burt Rosenberg