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It ushers us into humility. Humor, humanity, humility, all find similar roots in humere and humus, in the moisture and earth of our existence.
Kinds of Laughter
Lewis found the sounds of laughter in four overlapping realms. In his eleventh Screwtape letter, he outlined these four kinds of laughter: Joy, Play, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy.
Joy is the laughter of heaven, the secret of the Christian life. Woven out of sorrow and woe, from the crucibles of suffering, absence, and separation, comes the deep, abiding laughter of joy, without tears, promising health, wholeness, and reunion. The desire of joy haunted Lewis, until he found its source in God. Lewis confessed that he didn’t go to the Christian faith to be made happy. For a brief time, happiness can be found in worshipping yourself or in a good bottle of port. But only for a brief season. God does not allow any settled happiness or security in this life. He provides inns along the journey, but He wants us to know that we are pilgrims, strangers in a strange land. This is not our home.
Laughter, like music, percolates as thanksgiving and praise. Our enjoyment bubbles up and overflows with gratitude. Our rejoicing should be robust, virile, and spontaneous. In fact, our praise is verbal laughter. Whenever a husband praises his wife or a reader praises a book, that praise completes, consummates, the joy. Wasn’t that a good meal, talk, walk, evening? The praise is a blessed reminder of our love and laughter.
The ultimate laughter of joy is in the reunion. In Narnia, whenever the children return, there are hugs and kisses and laughter all around, celebrating reunion. Think of what happens every time you unexpectedly see someone you love at an airport or train station: think of how you laugh for no particular reason other than seeing the other, being reunited. So our great reunion with God Himself, in heaven, conjures up images of a fun and festive wedding feast, a giant banquet. Never an interminable church service or academic lecture, even on laughter.
The second category Lewis defines is fun, the laughter of the earth, of our bodies. It is laughter of play in its best sense. As I previously noted, the Westminster Catechism reminds us that our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Enjoy! What a delightful task to be set before us. As Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire expressed it: “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.” So when we laugh in enjoying God, we know His pleasure.
Chesterton points to the habit of children to want things again. Whenever you read a child a book, what does he or she say? “Read it again.” Whenever you throw a child into the air, and strain your back, what does the child shout? He claps his hands in glee and shouts, “Do it again!”
Because children have such abounding vitality, they want things repeated and unchanged.” They are not bored with the same thing. So, too, God exults in monotony. “The sun rises every morning. It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.
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