We have a piece we regularly publish on Fridays called “It’s Friday … Already!” that goes out exclusively to our prayer partners, our MemberPartners and those on our prayer list. It’s usually a collaboration of sorts between Marti and me. However, last Friday’s entry did not go out, much to Marti’s consternation, because I just wasn’t getting it. It’s thrown us into a weekend of discussion. So it was decided, since it’s now Monday, that I would turn it into a Catch, and let everybody in on the discussion, which is a polite way of saying we’re still having it.
The issue is all around having fun. Marti doesn’t think fun needs to be forgiven. I agree, but none of my attempts to agree convince Marti that I am free of my evangelical constraints around having fun. I get it in my head, but I’m having trouble living it out.
Isn’t it evangelical Christianity that tells us if we are having fun we must be doing something wrong? Or if we are suffering, or going through a grave trial, taking a break from it for fun is something we cannot consider? Do we have to spiritualize the fun right out of our lives before we can experience it, thus relieving it of its spontaneity, humanity and lightheartedness? In other words, do you have to ask forgiveness for having fun?
Marti thinks not, but she has found in me, and in some of our requests for prayer, a certain guilt over fun, or a reluctance to connect with normal human emotions.
It is true that many of those who have been raised Christian have learned to keep a lid on natural emotions. There is an underlying assumption — starting with sex, and continuing to just about anything — that if something is fun, there must be something wrong with it.
We have a plaque on the wall in our kitchen that reads, “LIFE IS SHORT: BREAK THE RULES. FORGIVE QUICKLY, KISS SLOWLY, LOVE TRULY, LAUGH UNCONTROLLABLY, AND NEVER REGRET ANYTHING THAT MADE YOU SMILE.” Now be honest with me, all you good Christian people, isn’t there something in there that makes you feel just a little uneasy? Doesn’t that sound like somebody is having maybe a little too much fun?
Marti thinks I have turned into pretty much of a bore. That’s really why this piece has taken so long to complete; it’s just too personal.
She thinks that getting a few fun moments out of me these days is like trying to get a laugh out of an old hound dog, whose idea of excitement is to scratch himself then stand up, circle around, and plop back down in the same spot he started from. She thinks I need to be forgiven for not being fun.
Maybe it’s a January kind of thing.
Last month, when it was the night before Christmas, there was not a creature stirring, not even a mouse. But now it is January and the dang things have set up a dance studio in the attic, and are tapping to Chandler’s rap music and having a grand old time in the rafters.
I want to set traps. Marti tells me to go up there and join them. She thinks my mind and the attic have a lot in common anyway. Both are dusty, mysterious, and difficult to reach. What better place to be a curmudgeon, and at the same time, without anyone noticing, take a turn around the dance floor with a couple of happy-go-lucky mice?
By ignoring, denying, shaming and shunning feelings, people say they are guarding their hearts, when all they are doing is making themselves completely numb to every good passion God has given. God is on the side of emotions; He is the designer of human emotions. Therefore, recovery is possible. Recovery is as real as the emotions once suppressed that are now made real again.
So loosen the tight-corset expressions on your faces which should largely vanish thanks to an array of God-given factors besides the mice in the attic. In spite of our suffering — and we are never poking fun at pain — we can follow where our smiles might lead us. Ask for forgiveness in advance, if you need to, but really … fun doesn’t ever need to be forgiven.
The following, as well as the picture above, appeared this week in our email from a pastor friend of ours who writes a weekly blog. He has been suffering with chronic back pain for which he will receive an operation in February. We thought a couple comments from that piece might shed some light on this discussion. The first is from his wife:
“On this journey, we’ve had lots of time to read, to pray for friends who tell us their stories, to praise God for daily blessings we notice, especially in the form of friends. And we’ve had something to laugh at each day (Some things you just have to laugh at!).” Carolyn Roper
On the other hand, her husband writes:
“On a curious note, our old dog threw her back out this week and is now on pain meds as well. As I write she is curled up beside me, sharing my misery with an occasional groan. Indeed, misery does love company.” Dave Roper
Be it known by all who encounter this that we all are given permission to laugh in spite of whatever makes us groan. Fun does not need to be forgiven.