Once again, the 40 days in the Christian season of Lent stretch before us. Lent is usually framed in terms of self-reflection, confession, and penitence in preparation for the joy of Easter. It is a serious season, one that becomes even more relevant in the time in which we live– a time that calls us, if we’re using explicitly religious language, to repent of the ways in which we are destroying our planet, tearing families apart through immigration policy, or turning our backs on the poorest among us. It is a time to lament the ways in which we too often turn to violence and slaughter innocents, in Christchurch, in Pittsburgh, in Charleston, and even in the streets of our own cities. No wonder the words spoken on Ash Wednesday find their origin in the Genesis narrative of humanity’s Fall: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
In light of all this, how do we turn back toward love and life, as any good Lenten practice asks us to do? I want to propose something of a counterintuitive start: a small seed of laughter.
I have watched four cohorts come through the program year at Life Together, not counting my own fellowship year a decade ago. By the time Lent rolls around each year, the honeymoon period for this experience wore off a long time ago. And yet the cohorts that can still laugh together are resilient. They’re less prone to succumb to frustration or bitterness, and more likely to turn toward community for support when they become overwhelmed. And when they can laugh, their justice action is infused with a joy that shines into the darkest places.
I’ve been struck recently about how much we laugh at Life Together, and how little we talk about that with our broader community. Whether it is giggling over singing a new chant just a little off, comparing our nasty housemate acting chops for interview role plays, or listening to my action figure Jesus tell the story of the feeding of the 5,000, our ability to laugh together sustains us through the year. It’s one of the things that keeps me doing this work, even on the days when I’m stretched to the breaking point. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels that way.
So in this Lenten season, lament. Confess. But also laugh a little with someone you love. Because within that laughter might just be the seeds of new life.