Do you remember when you were a teen and couldn’t wait to leave home? You couldn’t wait to live life the way you wanted to and didn’t want anybody telling you what you could or could not do.
Kids often can’t wait to leave home, establish their own rules and leave behind sibling rivalry, jealousies and what they might view as ongoing conflicts with their parents.
But like it or not, we take our families of origin with us. We can’t run away from them.
And whether we like it or not, we often end up repeating the behaviors we saw modeled – good or bad – even if we desperately want to do things different.
For those fortunate to grow up in nurturing and caring homes, we will have the support of our families as we leave home. We still want to be on our own, but will be able to appreciate the sacrifices and values and discipline we had as kids especially when we start our own families.
But for those who grew up in less than nurturing environments, were subjected to emotional or physical abuse, leaving home represents freedom from neglect and less than favorable family dynamics. They want to remove themselves as far as possible from their family of origin.
Firecrackers popping, potato salad made. Pop and beer are in the cooler covered with ice and we congregate as friends together to watch the evening fireworks.
The 4th of July – it is one of our favorite holidays.
It is a favorite because it represents freedom, independence and liberty.
We are free to be our own person, free to move around and make our own choices.
We have autonomy and self-determination.
Our liberty was bought with the blood, sweat and tears of others who stood up for what was right and fought to help our country become free and remain free.
That liberty assures us that we are free from tyranny, unreasonable control and restrictions of a despotic, arbitrary or over-reaching government.
What are we doing with that freedom?
What is the earliest memory you have as a child and the relationships you had? Was it pleasant or sad?
We are shaped and molded by people and events as we grow up.
The experiences we had as a child affect our relationships as an adult.
Max Lucado in one segment of “Traveling Light for Mothers” writes about a “wedding reenactment” they did at his church. In this staged drama the thoughts of the bride and groom were revealed to those watching as they stood before the pastor and the altar.
Each had armloads full of “excess baggage” of “guilt, anger, arrogance, and insecurities” they were bringing with them to this new relationship.
Each believed they were marrying the person who would help them carry or relieve them of their load, and would take care of them.
As they stood before the congregation, their “baggage”, typically unseen, was piled high around them.
“That’s not what I said.”
“Yes it is, I heard you.”
“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you stayed home once in awhile instead of going golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Oh, and how about you – you are always out with your girlfriends shopping again…. ”
And round and round and round it goes. And we end up with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.
Have you ever found yourself in such a situation? The anger we feel is intensified as we go along. We dig in our heels believing we are right and refuse to budge.
How did we get into this conflict in the first place? And how do we get out of it? Everybody wants their needs met. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to be liked and appreciated and respected and….. and the list goes on.
How do you see God?
Would you see Him as stern – unforgiving – waiting for you to screw up? How does your perception of God influence your relationship with Him? Does it bring you closer or keep you at a distance?
In “The Shack,” by Wm. Paul Young, the main character, Mack, receives a simple typewritten letter in the mail telling “Mackenzie” that he had been missed and if he wanted to get together, he “would be at the shack next weekend”. It was signed “Papa”.
On his quest to overcome the sadness Mack continued to experience after the death of his daughter, he decides to take a trip back to the scene of the crime where his daughter had been snatched by a predator during a family camping trip and was murdered. On the way he meets with an accident and Mack discovers himself at “the shack” where he comes face to face with God.
And the journey begins.
What would you do or say if you came face to face with God, especially if He was totally different than you had envisioned Him? What would you do if He greeted you with love, a hug, excited to see you and with an invitation to join Him for dinner? What if He laughed and saw His world with eyes of positive expectation? In fact, what if He was a She?
Can you laugh when your expectations of life have been turned upside down and you wonder how you will handle what has just been given to you – when the world you expected to be one way has been changed forever?
Yes you can. But maybe not immediately.
When my husband and I took our third child home from the hospital after he was born, it was with joy and excitement as he was a husky, healthy ten-pound baby boy. However, by six months we knew something wasn’t right as he was still unable to hold up his head.
Many months later, we again took our son home from another hospital after extensive tests and a weeklong stay. Only this time we were in shock.
The final diagnoses was that Don had cerebral palsy of the worst magnitude (a-mi-tonic-quadriplegic was what we heard). We were instructed to have a brace designed for him as quickly as possible so he might have a chance to walk.
They didn’t give us have much hope of him having a functioning brain: in fact, they gave little hope of him able to accomplish anything.
Laughter is not just good for the soul – it is vital for our overall health – mental, psychological, spiritual and physical.
“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Voltaire, French Philosopher
Are there really health benefits to laughter, other than it feels good in the moment? Yes there is and it is confirmed not only through scripture and sages of the past, but also from medical research. Unchecked long held stresses over time contribute to illness.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Proverbs 17:22
Laughter releases the hormones that heal our physical body and strengthens our heart and immune system. Hearty laughter exercises our heart – lowers blood pressure, gives our lungs a workout, releases tension in all parts of our body and releases opiates in our blood system giving us a high – a lift.
Perhaps the greatest gift that humor gives us is to be able to laugh at ourselves.
Laughter, if just for a moment, takes the edge off the seriousness of death and tragedy, expands our world view, and more than anything else allows us to let go of our inflated self-image, our bloated pride and self-importance.
Laughter clears the playing field, reduces levels of stress and gives our body the boost it needs to help fight off the effects of depression and loneliness.
When we take off the rose colored glasses, we stop embellishing or diminishing ourselves through impractical comparisons, and realize that we are all God’s creatures subject to both humor and divine intervention. When we stop taking ourselves so seriously, we are able to laugh at the flawed parts of our nature while celebrating the parts that give rise to creative energy.
Stress is very subjective. Perception is both the creation of stress and what we will do with it. It is both personal and unique. What stresses you out may not stress me at all.
Any life event, major or minor, can become a cause of dis-stress. It can be an on-going source of irritation and even victimization. It can also be the beginning of an off-repeated humorous story. Can we take events and turn them into something we can laugh at for decades?
Years ago in a speech I gave on stress to a group of teachers in the U.K. I shared one of the stories my father-in-law told our kids about when he was a kid. Their much loved Grandpa Bert was an easy-going guy, with seemingly not a care in the world who drove my mother-in-law crazy. As a kid he attended a small, rural school.
Now Bert was not a student of academia – in fact he hated sitting in the classroom. During recess while other kids were busy jumping rope or throwing ball, he was busy exploring the tall grass around the little country school, looking for wonderful things such as bugs, worms, caterpillars, frogs – you name it.
“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!” Leo Buscaglia
When was the last time you laughed – really laughed – until the tears rolled down your cheeks, your sides hurt and you gasped for air? You laughed and laughed and didn’t want to stop.
Something tickled your funny bone so that in an instant you saw the world differently – your situation was so bad, it was funny – your problem so profound, it was laughable – the ludicrous became the comical. The world had turned upside down and you laughed as you swung in the absurdity of the moment.
“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” H. G. Wells
What precipitated that laughter? How did it change how you felt about your world, your situation, yourself? How did it change the minutes and hours afterwards?
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain