Five Steps to Crazy Joy

  • 2013-05-16

A friend of mine loves to tell me jokes. He says, “Don't run behind a car, you'll get exhausted. What do you call cheese that isn't yours? Nacho cheese.” Did you get it? Me neither.

He finds acronyms funny. Here are some that seniors use when they text: GOML (Get Off My Lawn). BTW (Bring The Wheelchair). LMDO (Laughing My Dentures Out).

What makes little sense is that he's laughing in the face of great difficulty—the tragic loss of his only child in a car crash. Yes, he has questions for God, but he has joy that circumstances can't limit. Those whose lives are marked by illogical, outrageous joy seem to display five characteristics that form an acronym for GRACE:

Grateful. When I was 10, a conference speaker came to stay at our house. I groused when asked to abdicate my room so this skilled surgeon would have a place to stay. After all, I would miss my Styrofoam bed. Though a movie was being made about her life and her books were selling briskly, she gratefully gobbled a meagre ham sandwich at our table and thanked me repeatedly for her humble accommodations.

A 10-year-old rarely attends church willingly, but her life so captivated me that I skipped playing football with friends to hear her speak. Raped twice during the Simba uprising in Africa's Congo, Dr. Helen Roseveare had survived unspeakable horror, yet her words and attitude brought laughter to our home.

Gratitude is a discipline, which must daily replace our sense of entitlement and our desire to reside in whine country. Helen Keller thanked God for her handicaps. She wrote, “Through them I have found myself, my work, and my God.” Thanksgiving turns a ham sandwich into a feast, a Timex into a Rolex, and a small boy into a lifelong fan. When I got my room back from Dr. Roseveare, two gifts sat atop my pillow: Two bucks—a veritable fortune for a 10-year-old kid—and a kind note I kept for years.

Rustproof. Some of the youngest people I know are elderly folk who have decided to die young. As old as they can. That's the secret to being geezer-proofed. An older guy at church loves to offer me advice. He says, “You know how to avoid parking tickets? Leave your windshield wipers on full speed.” That's rustproof living. No matter what your age, keep a childlike spirit. When I grow up I'd like to be a kid.

Amazed. They're amazed and amused by gifts large and small. By sunsets, dryer lint, and dogs with sweaters. We all live surrounded by God's creation. But like the guy who works in a grand cathedral and spends his day staring at the floorboards, we're in danger of taking things for granted. Those who celebrate the laugh of a child or the roar of an ocean hear God whisper, “Hey! I'm here. I'm wild about you.” More than anything, they are amazed by grace, by a God who according to Psalm 103, “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (NIV). They read Hebrews 8:12, “Your sins I will remember no more” and they can't help but snicker at the logic of this. A God who keeps the universe humming yet keeps no record of my wrongs. Amazing!

Compassionate. When I visit a dentist I really hope he's had a root canal. Not that morning, but at some point in his life. I never trust a mechanic who hasn't had his car towed. Or a preacher who hasn't busted his knuckles on a wrench. Diplomas on walls impress me, but I'm more impressed to know that a doctor has felt some pain himself. If so, he's earned something school won't teach you: compassion. Compassionate people take an uncommon interest in others. They serve. They stand out in a selfish age. Compassionate people are never short of visitors. This compassion reaches clear down to their wallets. They look for needs and meet them. They know that money can accomplish fantastic things when held in their hands, but never in their hearts.

Expectant. A Sunday school teacher had been teaching her kids about heaven.

“If I sold my house, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?” 

“No!” the children answered. 

“Well then. How can I get into Heaven?” 

A five-year-old shouted, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”

Where would we be without the hope of Heaven?

I'm sometimes asked, “Callaway, how can you laugh with all the trouble in your life?” It's simple. I believe that the rewards for serving God are out of this world. This is not an excuse for unplugging, quite the opposite, it gives me a desire to bring grace to others all the way home.