Sunday, February 21, 2021

A little humor. . .

As a student preparing to be a pastor, I had the good fortune to mentor under the now sainted pastor, Charles J. Evanson.  He taught me many things but most of all this:  Don't take yourself too seriously; take the work of the Kingdom seriously but not yourself.  I am deeply indebted to him for this wisdom.  He understood that seriousness can often get in the way of things and that humor was not a distraction but a gift from God.  Seriousness does not see through but only at things.  Those without a sense of humor, especially a self-deprecating sense of humor, can often stumble over every word or sentence.  They can miss the forest for the trees.  On the other hand, a sense of humor sees through things.  It does not make light of the things of God but it never confuses this seriousness with the way we see ourselves.  To be spiritual is to have a sense of humor, to see through things, especially the hard and hurtful things of this life.

My father and his father before him were easy going individuals.  They were not prone to anger and were sometimes rather goofy.  They knew their own limits and were comfortable in their own skin.  Neither was a fool and both were wise beyond their years but they did not lose their sense of humor -- especially about themselves.  I must admit that I often found this sense of humor frustrating.  As any product of the 1950s and 1960s, I was a rebel convinced both that the world needed a revolution and I was revolutionary.  I lament now the hours I spent trying to convince my father that I knew what I was talking about.  His patience and good humor may have been lost to me at the time but I have learned to appreciate them better now than I did as a youth.

Pastor Evanson and my father and grandfather went through difficult times.  They did not despair in those hard times but endured.  They endured by the grace of God but they learned not to dwell on the troubles they faced or to focus on the scars they bore from the struggles they endured.  Instead, they took most seriously the Word of the Lord and His promises.  I watched my father in his devotional time every morning.  He regularly prayed the Portals of Prayer appointed for the day, read in the Bible, read through the Lutheran Confessions, and prayed.  It was a slow and deliberate process, not to be rushed.  Though the day might present him with many challenges, it was not to be faced without this grounding in God's Word and a rehearsal of His promises.  These would be taken seriously but the trials he faced and his own demeanor were not taken so seriously.

Though some reading this blog might presume from my occasional rants (okay, more than occasional), that I am a rather bleak and somber fellow.  Those who know me, know that this is not really the case.  I enjoy a good joke and enjoy being the subject of a good joke.  If there is one thing I have learned from God's Word and faithful figures in my life, it is that the world and the Church were there before you came along and probably will be after you leave.  Though you are not the savior of either, Christ is.  So be faithful and endure, trusting the Lord and trying not to bring harm to either through your own words and actions.  But even then, the gracious and merciful Lord forgives and restores.

I wish I had learned sooner the wisdom of their witness -- take the things of God seriously but not yourself!  It could have saved me much angst.  But perhaps that is the key.  We must all learn this wisdom and sometimes it takes some time to grow into this grace.  But it will not deter me from encouraging others to learn what I was taught.  Humor, especially self-deprecating humor, is a gift from God and helps us understand what is truly important and what is to be taken most seriously.

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