Hearty Laughter as an Act of Faith

Sometime in my twenties, I realized that I have a big laugh. Like, really big—loud and sharp. If I think something is funny, there’s no chance I’m sneaking up on anyone.

I’m sure there are lots of people who wonder why it took me so long to figure this out. I guess self-knowledge can take time.

A Choice

Even though my default laugh sticks out like a giraffe in a chicken coop, I can rein it in. I can chortle in polite society.

When I realized how conspicuous my laughter made me, I had to make a choice. I could restrain myself, putting the brakes on my loud outbursts and moving closer to respectability. Or, I could throw back my head and howl.

I may be accused of spiritualizing here, but to me this was an act of faith.

Vulnerable

The word “vulnerable” comes to English from a Latin word that means “wound.” So when we are vulnerable, we are wound-able. And laughter jostles our normal armor out of place and exposes us.

When we laugh or show delight, we take a risk. By revealing what brings us pleasure we open ourselves to criticism and ridicule. Anyone who sees us rejoice in something they deem absurd or despicable can attack—if not publicly and openly, then in whispers or clicks on a keyboard. Laughter points a neon arrow at our joy, offering it up for public scrutiny. And boisterous laughter adds to the arrow a fire whistle and a fog horn.

An Act of Faith

A large part of my Christian repentance has been to stop focusing so much energy on people liking and praising me. And so, though I knew it may cause some to dismiss, mock, or avoid me, I embraced my laugh.

My laugh is one of the threads God used to knit me together, and I love to laugh. Laughter is part of the way I delight in the creative, beautiful, surprising, and strange ways God has made his world. (I mean, how can you stifle a laugh when you crack open a pomegranate?!)

The more I embrace my laughter and trust the Lord with the outcome, the more I learn to exercise my faith. There is no security in others’ opinions, no freedom in hoarding the worthless currency of back slaps from the respected. I trust that the love of God in Jesus is far, far better.

Any time we reveal emotion we take a chance. We give ammunition to those who may wish us harm. But we dare not turn stoic—God made us whole and he left out no ingredient.

So when we gather next, don’t be surprised to hear deep laughter coming from my direction. I won’t be trying to make a scene, but I won’t be holding back either.

There are wild, delightful things (and people!) in this world, and many times a chuckle just won’t do.

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Ryan Higginbottom
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