My third baby, Thomas, was born right around the 2014 Oscars. You know, when Idina Menzel performed “Let It Go” and John Travolta introduced her as “Adele Dazeem”? I would be up in the middle of the night with the baby, watching recorded episodes of Jimmy Fallon, dying laughing at all the jokes he got out of that. I think he worked it into his opening monologue for like two weeks. I would be riding down the road chuckling to myself. It was comedy gold. And it made my steps a little bit lighter.
Laughter can do that. God can do that. I’ve learned that laughter, in my life, is the ultimate mechanism of disarmament. And it’s a great indication of how I’m doing…how my life is going…whether or not I’m living it the way God wants me to. Because—newsflash—God wants us to laugh and find joy in these ordinary lives of ours.
Inevitably, though, we go through some heavy seasons of life where that’s just not the case. I think after the births of my first two kids, I was pretty weighed down in the heaviness of it—the responsibility of these human lives (!), the never-ending task list, and the painful and terrifying realization that I had no clue as to what I was doing.
But, God gave me this gift with Thomas. He made good on His promise to me. He took the heavy burden and made it light (Matthew 11:28-30) through The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. In those wee morning hours, holding the baby and belly-laughing on the couch, I started to recognize myself again.
Never underestimate God or the methods He will use to find you.
Since then, this is how I’ve come to see it: I have two modes as a mom. I have my teeth-clenching mode (or sometimes, on really bad days, I call it “face-grabbing mode.”) And then I have, we’ll call it, “dance-in-the-kitchen mode.” This could also just be known as “great!-Mommy-is-not-a-monster-today” mode.
I find that the mode I’m in depends on what I’m responding to. And here is what this little article of mine is hinged on: our lives are meant to be lived in response to GOD’S LOVE FOR US—His infinite, rich, abounding, unstoppable love for you and me.
If I could wake up every morning and realize all over again what God has done to prove His love for me, I might never grab a face again.
See when you look at everything we do as Christians, as a Church, you can draw a line back to what the early Church did. But, what I think we tend to forget (2,000+ years after our early beginnings) is that everything they did was in response to this great encounter that they had just had with the love of Christ—the love that they watched bleed out on Calvary, the love that burned in them as the tongues of fire descended.
There were no bones about the fact that they were just a bunch of misfits who had done nothing on their own merit to deserve this gift of love that Christ bestowed when He welcomed everyone into His family and gave them a place to belong; when He offered them a prepared place in one of the “many rooms” in His Father’s house (John 14:2). Their lives were in response to the fact that they had basically just won the lottery and so you can bet that there was joy. In the midst of martyrdom and suffering and lack and persecution, there was joy.
We stand a little further out from that first encounter, though. But still we keep doing all the things. The order is just all messed up. So many times in my life, I put the doing of all the things in front of the encounter with all the love. I see myself trying so hard to just power through by my own merit, doing all these things I know I’m supposed to be doing in order to be a good Christian or a good mom, but hitting all these walls when I realize I can’t. Because I’m just not good enough.
That’s my teeth-clenching mode. It’s life in response to the not enough in me. Not enough patience, not enough discipline, not enough organization, not enough piety, and not enough energy no matter how hard I try. And so when things start going wrong and kids start whining and scrambled eggs are stuck to the TV, it makes me want to squeeze the daylights out of my children’s chubby little cheeks because I’m not enough and they’re not enough and why-in-the-world-are-there-eggs-on-the-TV?
Teeth-clenching mode tells me that I need to go somewhere and just let Jesus love me. Because that encounter with His love is always available—in Mass, in Adoration, at the kitchen table, in a song, in His word, in Jimmy Fallon’s opening monologues; and it’s the only thing that really ever changes a person.
When I live my life in response to this love of the Lord that I know and have encountered, I laugh. I laugh a lot. I laugh because I can breath a sigh of relief and stop taking myself so seriously. I laugh because: who am I really? No one important or great…honestly just a bumbling idiot, but one who happens to be very deeply loved and treasured by God.
What happens next is that my everyday encounter with His love urges me on. I find myself doing what I couldn’t do before; because my days aren’t an effort towards a perfect performance in order to achieve some higher sense of myself, some greater portion of love, or a gold star. I’ve already won more than I could ever gain in the love that Christ has shown me by His death on the cross.
In this everyday encounter with Christ, my days are lived out as a response to His love. And that response becomes my striving towards holiness, little by little, for love of Him who first loved me (1 John 4:19).
And it’s awesome because when I live my life in response to His love, I remember that everyone I meet is equally as loved and valued and accepted. And then it’s like: why would I want to squeeze the cheeks off of someone that God treasures so much?
So, in short, Lord, my children (and their cheeks) thank you for making their Mom a little nicer to be around.
I could end here with some deep, thoughtful, catechetical bombshell that I pulled off of someone really smart’s Instagram. But instead I’ll share this hilarious clip of a news anchor laughing uncontrollably at a story about a pig named Chris P. Bacon. And while you’re sitting there laughing, not doing anything productive or pious or gold-star-worthy, know that the Father is delighting in you. Just because.
Copyright 2016 Kelly Pease