I think laughter is a gift from our loving God and I am grateful for this gift.
There is something powerful in this simple response. Laughing can change frustration into mirth, anger into forgiveness, and bitter grief into sweet recollection. I can think of countless occasions when laughing has transformed me, pushing out the bitter and making room for the love of God. Laughing at my life makes me more grateful and optimistic.
And laughing makes me a much, much better mother.
An example: A few weeks ago in church, Soren was having his usual squirming-and-squawking fit. His little body seemed to take up our whole pew as he flailed about. His voice seemed to fill the whole chapel. I couldn't hear a word that was being said at the pulpit and I was sure that none of my neighbors could, either.
Many of you more patient parents may not understand the way I felt: I wanted to dump him in Scott's lap, run away, screaming in frustration.
Instead, I held out until the intermediate hymn. Surely I could juggle Soren until the intermediate hymn and then I would let Scott take a turn. There was respite in sight.
When the chorister stood up and the prelude to The Time is Far Spent began, I gratefully stood up to join the congregation in singing. I balanced Soren on my hip and hoped that the music would calm him.
Shrink not from your duty, however unpleasant
Instead of listening in awe, like he usually does during the singing of hymns, Soren squirmed to be let down. Then he wailed when his feet hit the floor.
But follow the Savior, your pattern and friend.
So I picked him back up and tried to hold him steady while he clawed at my shoulders and face. I wanted to throw him from me in frustration. Instead I sang and bounced with all my might.
Our little afflictions, tho painful at pleasant
Soren grabbed at my hair and gave it a powerful yank, perhaps thinking he could use it to climb up on top of my head, the only place he had yet to be that morning.
Ere long with the righteous, in glory will end.
How can I explain how funny that was to me at that very moment? "Our little afflictions, tho painful at present, ere long with the righteous, in glory will end." I suddenly couldn't stop laughing. Soren was definitely being a Little Affliction, quite painful at present, and the hymn promised an end to the pain. It was too perfect, too appropriate and I couldn't keep myself from chortling through the remaining verses. Much to the dismay of those in the pews in front of and behind me.
I don't think I can ever appropriately recapture that moment. It won't make you laugh when you read about it and I don't laugh thinking about it now. But in that moment, the laughter that bubbled out of me felt like a gift from my Heavenly Father. He loved me and knew exactly how I felt, there in church with my beloved son and little affliction.
I squeezed Soren tight, so tight that he let go of my hair and then laughed too. Then I whispered to my husband (with a meaningful look at the hymn-book lyrics), "Soren is our Little Affliction". He gave a little chuckle, then seemed to take heart as we sang the remaining verses, which all dealt with the need to endure.
The rest of the meeting passed much more happily. Even though Soren wasn't a bit more still or quiet, we were awash with gratitude for him and for that moment of mirth. I felt transformed by that laughter and I know that it helped bolster my patience and love.