A Voice in the Shadowlands

Bad Jokes and Inner Peace

I am not the kind of person who embarrasses easily. Honestly, I can probably count the times I have been truly, completely red-faced and at a loss for words on both hands. One of those few times happened when I was still in elementary school. I was allowed to come to my church’s choir Christmas social with my parents. It was at a restaurant in town, in one of those big banquet rooms. They played Dirty Santa and while that was going on, I was trying to kill time (seeing how I was, oh, 50-65 years younger on average than most people there) with one of my favorite people there. He was several years older than me and I looked up at him with that awe that only a third grader could to a guy who had a driver’s license who didn’t talk to you like you still needed a baby sitter. In an attempt to impress him, I decided to whip out a killer joke I heard at school. I delivered it with amazing skill but when I hit the punch line, he just nodded and turned back to what he was doing. This wasn’t like him and I was a combination of perturbed and devastated.

When I got home I mentioned it to my parents. Again, I delivered the joke and afterwards my parents had the same response. That was when I was informed that I had just told a dirty joke. Which was fairly hard to explain to someone who hadn’t had sex ed yet. I just understood that I had done something that was wrong without understanding that it was…and at a church function no less…did I mention it was to the pastor’s son?  Thinking back on it now, it wasn’t even a particularly well-crafted joke. I thought I understood it. I had my own understanding of it. My understanding, however, wasn’t the reality of the situation.

Life, lately, has been interesting. Things keep threatening to happen, they just aren’t following through, which is becoming horribly annoying. I find myself screaming at each of them, “For better or worse, just happen already! If you happen, I can deal with it! Just hovering, all I can do is stare at you.” I’m not horribly patient. I’m happy with that. To get patience, you have to go through trails and I don’t want to go through them. Some of these hovering issues are blessings that I just want to come and quit tempting me with potential. Who likes that kind of tension anyway? After a while of waiting, you even start to get bitter. You just want it to get there and you get resentful that it takes too long. You know that it’ll be here…eventually. It’s like knowing someone you’re dying to see is coming and finding out they decided to walk from New York to New Bern when they could have flown. You’re still happy to see them, but that might not stop you from hitting them in the back of the head a few times after the first hug.

Some of the things that I’m waiting for are fairly scary. Or have the potential to be. Because of that, God and I have been spending a lot more time together. I’m a worrier. That’s no surprise, if you know me. What’s surprising, is that, through spending more and more time with God (and not just worrying in front of him) I’ve had a feeling of peace about things. I always thought that peace meant that everything was hunky-dory and there were no worries. I’m learning that my understanding of peace wasn’t the reality, just like that misunderstood joke. I’m learning that peace isn’t all happiness, rainbows and unicorns, which is a little bit of a surprise. Things are still scary and the storm is still raging around it, but in the middle of that, it’s like I’m carrying around a small eye of the storm. Granted, some days the eye is more stable than others, but heck, I’m human and I’m still fairly new at this. I’m growing, though. It’s one foot in front of the other. Like Winston Churchill once said, “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” He’s a guy who should know.

I’m learning through daily experience to put Philippians 4:6-7 to practice – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I have not achieved the not being anxious about anything or always being thankful, but I can tell you that when the peace kicks in, you really can’t explain it or understand it.

…And no, I won’t tell you the joke.

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