February 16, 2011

Remembering to Laugh

I laughed (sort of) when I read a recent letter to the editor from Susan in San Diego, taking me to task for a column topic.
Susan wrote: “I read Nash’s column Growing Up Adventist back in the nineties, and I have to admit that it captured my attention much more than his current fascination with biblical interpretation. Is the Sabbath in Colossians 2 something that actually comes up in everyday conversation?”
2011 1505 page30Let me first say, “Well!” Let me also say:

1. I’m glad that people, even Californians, liked the Growing Up Adventist column. What can I say? I grew up. This reminds me, actually, of a recent visit to Disney World. For some reason I still possessed an old, tattered Disney pass from when I was a kid. It had a few punches left, but now I was too old to use it. At the ticket window I told the woman, “I got this pass when I was a kid, but I grew up.” She laughed and swapped it for an adult pass.
2. Does the Sabbath and Colossians 2 actually come up in everyday conversation? Actually, I believe the topic is relevant to church members who might have run into the buzzsaw of Life Assurance Ministries and their campaign against Sabbath rest and other Adventist beliefs. This experience has challenged and strained many Adventist families, in part because we haven’t always provided the careful biblical teaching that we should. That’s why I wrote the column.
3. I suppose there could be worse topics than biblical interpretation with which to be fascinated, including but not limited to: William and Kate, the Apocrypha, the year 2012, Bigfoot, belly buttons, the Detroit Lions, Steve Chavez’s beard, Jaime Jorge’s facial expressions, and San Diego. (Just kidding, Susan!)
More seriously (but not too seriously), I’m grateful for the reminder about relevance, and even levity, in the Christian life. It’s easy, when any of us gets excited about something, to overdo it. (Oh, there’s Gary. We all know what he’s going to talk about.) We need to be careful not to pigeonhole ourselves by beating the same drum all the time. We also need to remember to laugh a little. My own daughters, for example, hardly ever tell me that their friends like me because I enjoy biblical interpretation. But they do say that their friends like me because I make them laugh.
In fact, one of the things I’ve enjoyed learning in my (shh!) biblical studies is that a major part of Jewish life centered on joy and laughter. That’s right. “A time to laugh” is part of the life of faith. God’s people knew how to feast—to have good clean fun. If you’ve ever stood at the Western Wall on a Friday evening, watching Jewish boys and girls dance, you know what I mean. Our ultimate example, Jesus, somehow managed to draw all kinds of people into His circle. One minute He was captivating the teachers of the law; the next minute He was the life of the party. That’s pretty amazing.
As sober as life can be, when we don’t make space for pleasure in our homes and churches our kids will look for it elsewhere. We need times of solemnity and study; we also need times of levity and laughter—all generations playing together. That’s the church many of us grew up in and still want for our kids today.
I appreciate the reminder.
Andy Nash is a journalist and lay pastor. His book Paper God: Stumbling Through Failure to a Deeper Faith is available at Adventist Book Centers, as well as online. This article was published February 17, 2011.