How easy it is to listen to the advice of others and change ourselves into something we are not. To quit being our unique and wonderfully made selves. To base our worth on what others think instead of what God thinks.
An elderly family member came for a visit. “A lady does not laugh with her mouth wide open, head thrown back, submitting all viewers to the spectacle of her tonsils,” she advised.
I was crushed. “Do I really laugh like that?”
She did an imitation of me that was pretty frightening.
I grew careful. I would catch myself laughing, enjoying the moment, but then my relative’s words and impersonation would flash through my thoughts. So I’d close my mouth a little to shield spectators from the sight of my back teeth, lower my chin until I was looking straight ahead, and try to relax my lips into a smaller, more controlled shape and manner.
I wanted to enjoy life, laugh with abandon, but my self-consciousness haunted me and was stealing my joy. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”1
Then one day I forgot and laughed like I had before. The sun kept shining. No one said my tonsils were unusually shaped. No one moved away calling me a hyena. I began laughing again, enjoying the sound and rhythm.
One day while in Ireland with family, my daughter, who loves to snap pictures unawares, took a candid camera photo of me laughing. It is one of my favorite images.
We had stopped on the sidewalk during our walk around Dublin and had started joking with each other. In the picture I am sharing a laugh with my dad. My arm is reaching out to touch him, my head is tipping back, my mouth is opening wide, and I am laughing. Not just with my voice and lips, but with my whole body. My whole spirit.
Psalm 4:7 says, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”2 That’s how I want to approach life. Laughing. Truly laughing and enjoying this temporal, messy, and yet so mysterious life that is God’s gift to me. I want to laugh with abandon because God is on my side and He also has a sense of humor. Just look at a platypus.
Theresa Nelson lives in Missouri, USA, with her husband and two children. Her writing often points readers to God and has appeared in over 50 publications.