As a kid I could win any “no smiling” contest. I could easily stand there and watch other kids do all kinds of stupid stuff and not crack a smile…because I was born without a sense of humor. Growing up this was rarely a problem for me. We didn’t do fun and goofy at my house, so I fit right in. It worked out great because I could stay up past my bedtime and never get caught watching Michelle Tanner say “You got it, dude,” or Steve Urkel ask, “Did I do that?” because I never even giggled. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized all I was truly missing out on.
Early on in our dating relationship, I can vividly remember Bryan teaching me how to be fun and funny. He found a tiny little seed that could maybe hold the possibility of a sense of humor, and he nurtured it. I recall him coming to me, after watching some painfully awkward conversation in which I thought I was being funny, and him coaching me, saying “when you say something you think is funny, you have to smile or else nobody knows you’re joking.” I can still remember the sinking disappointment I felt when baby Cade first smiled at Bryan before me. I took care of baby Cade. I nursed him. I got up at night with him. I rocked him. It had never occurred to me to smile and play with him.
In the years since, fun is something I’ve gotten better at because I’ve intentionally pursued developing my funness. Laughing and smiling and being stupid and goofy may never come naturally to me. I have purposefully developed it because I see the importance of it, and because life is just so much better with it! A big part of God redeeming my past is that He has given me the gift of laughter.
In the two years I’ve been serving in student ministry, God has taken the little, broken sense of humor I had, combined it with my genuine desire to honor him, and given me back more than I could have ever even imagined possible. I have learned to laugh with my girls over silly dance moves, goofy mispronunciations of words, and my failed attempt at trendy painted nails. We’ve shared laughs over everything and nothing. We’ve bonded over belly laughs and inside jokes.
These last few weeks I have been riding the struggle bus with my parenting. I was feeling disconnected from my own boys, wanting my space more than usual, frustrated and upset over little things. My friend who asks me hard questions leaned in and whispered, “When was the last time you laughed with your boys?” That was it. I was feeling distant and disengaged because we were so busy living life, head down and in the groove, and I hadn’t taken a minute to find the awesome, find the funny, and laugh. Like how it didn’t occur to me to smile with baby Cade, laughter still isn’t a default setting for me. But I will not give up the pursuit because I know that fun over time makes relationships go deeper. Fun with my boys is where the memories are made. Laughter with my husband is what makes that bond grow stronger.
Sometimes I still get it wrong. I slip back into too serious. I watch an episode of Friends without smiling and I know I’m heading the wrong direction and in need of course correcting. I still don’t think “fun” would make the top 10 list of words to describe myself, but the fact that I have some people out there who would argue that about me, for me, makes me smile and thank God for the gift of laughter.