Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Gravitas is not an issue for Dad and me. Actually, having a tad too much of it—as my deeply etched brow lines betray—might be, at least for me. Dad has a serious bent and this daughter does too. He taught me how to think and showed me how faith works in love.
But I’m light years behind Dad in this: my dad knows how to laugh.
So while others wax poetic this Father’s Day about how their dads taught them about the sacrificial and abiding love of Father God—and I’ve done that too— this time I’ll share something else Dad taught me.
Don’t Take Yourself (Or Your Shirts) So Seriously
What did I learn—who am I kidding? What am I still learning—from my dad?
Don’t take yourself so seriously. That people who laugh at themselves are refreshing. That a cheerful heart is good medicine. And that sometimes the medicine takes the form of a T-shirt.
For the record, this seems to be a choice prescription from the Good Physician for me. I have some shirt stories of my own. One involved a chocolate spot I sported for a night of parent-teacher conferences and the other about a breezy new blouse that wasn’t actually a blouse.
They both reinforce Dad’s lesson. God teaches me, and heals me, through shirts. Maybe we could even call them “garments of praise.”
Lighten Up & Laugh
Oh sure, Proverbs 14:13 is true, “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.” But, Jesus said, laughter is a sign of well-being and blessing in Luke 6:21, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
Which reminds me of another proverb Dad quotes: “The cheerful heart has a continual feast.”
For years, he had a picture of the Laughing Jesus posted on the fridge.
Our words are the fruit of our hearts. Kind hearts speak kind words, grateful hearts speak thankful words, hearts at rest give words of peace. And humble hearts simply laugh.
But they might cover up with funny shirts.
Just because Dad wears a Wiley Coyote T-shirt and laughs so loud at Laurel and Hardy or What About Bob? that you can hear him a mile away doesn’t mean he’s carefree and never provoked or pricked in heart. Not at all.
What it does mean that Dad is able to add the “nevertheless” like the Psalmist Asaph did. After he recounted in bitter detail the envy-inducing prosperity of the wicked, Asaph got to this near the end of Psalm 73.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory
Nevertheless. In other words, all that bad stuff is still true. Asaph didn’t retract all the all the ways the bad guys were winning. For now, the wicked might get away with murder.
But Asaph shifted his focus.
I studied those verses with my girlfriends today and I love what English pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote about them. He didn’t say that Asaph wore funny tunics and laughed a lot. He has an entire chapter titled, “Nevertheless” in his book Faith Tried & Triumphant he writes (p. 168),
“A very good way of testing whether we are truly Christian or not is just to ask ourselves whether we can say this ‘nevertheless.’ Do we know this blessed ‘but’? Do we go on, or do we stop where we were…?”
I’ve told you before about the wicked-mean chrome dome comment that mortified this sensitive seventh grader and how Dad just laughed.
Not a mean laugh, a nevertheless laugh. A good-medicine laugh. A “But God’s got this, Ab,” laugh.
So lighten up.
Life Is Good Again
Dad can laugh. To be sure, like Sarah the mother of Laughter, Dad recognizes the “wild incongruity of life.” Dad knows that things are not always what they seem.
A few days ago, I plodded up the sidewalk to Mom and Dad’s, heavy-hearted for hefty conflict at home compounded by, say, the weight of the wicked world, myself soundly included in it.
Then I lift my eyes and see Dad rinsing lettuce and not in any old T-shirt, but in his “WHO SAID SKIRT?” T-shirt.
Suddenly life was good. Nevertheless. A cheerful heart is good medicine.
And one of Dad’s choice drugs is a funny shirt.
A [humble] man must sacrifice himself to the God of Laughter, who has stricken him with a sacred madness. As a woman can make a fool of a man, so a joke makes a fool of a man. And a man must love a joke more than himself, or he will not surrender his pride for it. A man must take what is called a leap in the dark, as he does when he is married or when he dies, or when he is born, or when he does almost anything else that is important.
-G.K. Chesterton, in “W.W. Jacobs”, an article which appeared in The Tribune in 1906
Collected in A Handful of Authors (1953)