I am known for my laugh. A distinction which I've come to embrace. It's uncanny how often I've heard from relative strangers, "You have quite the memorable laugh." It's not uncommon for me to laugh in a crowded room only to hear from near the other wall, "Ropp is here?" I also, I've been told, laugh at all the wrong times. Or at least it's perceived that way. I find humor in strange places, like cancer or marital fights, not because I think cancer or discord is particularly hilarious, but because even the most cancerous bodies still have a funny bone.
I was reminded of that this morning as I visited Mike, an old teacher of mine, who had a minor stroke this week. He's still in his 40s with kids at home. Though they didn't catch things right away, he still has his speech and motion (though numbness) in the right side of his body. But for a man who wonders if he'll ever walk the same way again, he was, as always, full of jokes; he suggested that if he ends up in a wheel chair, he'd probably shave his head and get a nice suite and a white fluffy cat and come up with plans for world domination, or at least ways to control his classroom.
His humor, while par for the course for Mike, was notable because of the fact that the severity of his symptoms are due to an error by the Albany hospital emergency room who sent home a man with numbness in the right side of his body and ongoing vertigo. His sister, a nurse, said this would easily set off enough flags for a CT scan in any reasonable emergency room. Mike's response was that God must have something good in mind since He full well could have prompted a nurse to suggest they check things out further.
The reason I can laugh at awkward things like I do, the reason that Mike can make jokes about himself as a James Bond villain, flow out of Jesus' advent. That for those who are trying to follow the one who has already accepted us so freely, there is a certain edge that comes off of even the most tragic moments. They are still difficult things, still frustrating things, and Mike still has his fears, but there is also hope that walks besides us, Jesus Immanuel, enabling us to laugh not as an escape, but in remembrance that this is not the end of all things, that God has, is, and will make all things new.
So we might as well enjoy the ride.
It has been almost nine years since I've been in his classroom, but the man continues to teach me.
May He guide you through the wilderness. May He protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you.