Last night I went with several friends to see the high school production of Peter Pan. The students performed remarkably, and I found myself thoroughly entertained. The ending of Peter Pan, though, always bothers me a little bit.
At the end of the story, Wendy the “mother” to all the lost boys, ends up growing into an adult, marrying, and having a child of her own. Peter Pan, as promised, comes to visit years later to get Wendy to help with spring cleaning. Well, Wendy sates, “I have forgotten how to fly.” She simply cannot leave her life of responsibility to return to Neverland.
This is reminiscent of at least two other stories. I love the Chronicles of Narnia, but one melancholy moment that strikes me deeply is when the ever-so-logical Susan is no longer able to return to Narnia because she’s become so serious-minded, she can’t bring herself to believe in Aslan anymore. I am also reminded of the more recent Polar Express, where those who don’t believe in Santa cannot hear the jingling of the Christmas bell from Santa’s sleigh.
Where’s the balance? As a youth minister, I have the privilege of using my spiritual gift of goofiness to build bridges with young adults. I thoroughly enjoy laughing heartily, being silly, and subjecting myself to plenty of jokes and pranks. These things are a part of my joie de vivre, the joy of living.
Another part of my life, though, is the day-to-day responsibility. The bills, the meetings, sometimes having to wear a necktie, setting a good example, taking care of my health, etc. Peter Pan wouldn’t approve of many of these adult-level necessities.
I still want to fly.
I still want to enter Narnia.
I still want to ride the Polar Express.
I am not about to abandon the things that I’ve committed to as an adult. I’m still working on making my “yes be yes, and my no be no.” However –
The other day I was speaking with a teenage friend of mine. She is an enthusiastic supporter of Compassion International, and is involved with a few international kids’ lives. She had recently received some new pictures of one of “her” children. We both noticed as we perused the photo was the lack of smiles on the faces in the picture. Many children and a few adults were at a birthday party. Not one person was smiling. Now, I would bet that before and after that camera flash flashed, most everyone was having an enjoyable time at the celebration. But some cultures (including American culture in previous generations), for some reason, do not think it’s necessary or proper to smile for a photo.
I don’t want my life to reflect these anti-smile photographic cultures. I don’t want to be so wrapped up in the seriousness of life that I forget to smile. Or laugh. Or fly.
Crossroads of Joy
That leads me to my goal, then. I have two goals that must, somehow, mesh. As I mentioned before, I won’t give up my adult responsibilities. That would be foolish. But I also do not want to trade in my smile for a scowl, my laugh for a grunt. Then I must look to constantly protect the culture of Brandon. What does that look like?
The Value of Humor
One of my business clients, a corporation that plans large-scale governmental and amateur sporting events, lists as one of their corporate values as “humor.” How refreshing is that?! They clearly take their business seriously, or else they would not have had the success they’ve enjoyed for a quarter of a century. But they haven’t forgotten to laugh. Or smile. Or, dare I say, “fly.”
As I approach my life, then, with all the meetings, bills, etc., I want to list as one of my values “humor.” I’m not talking about a superficial, fake laughter that comes at awkward moments. I’m not speaking of a pretend smile that is as detectable as generic macaroni and cheese (the stuff does not compare to Kraft!). I am talking about a genuine life, full of joy, laughter, smiles, and humor, infused by the joy that comes from a thankful heart. God is the giver of all good things, and when I’ve recognized His goodness toward me in small things and in big, I can’t help but smile.