“By starving emotions we become humorless, rigid and stereotyped; by repressing them we become literal, reformatory and holier-than-thou; encouraged, they perfume life; discouraged, they poison it.”
~ Joseph Collins ~
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The last week of school before vacation always seems to be just that little bit harder. Even though the “carrot” of a two-week break is dangling enticingly just a short way ahead, every single day seems like a mountain that has to be climbed. Homework becomes a greater burden and the early morning starts feel so much earlier.
This was the way it was in the Porter house this week. Even when the last day finally rolled around, Kylie and Matthew found it almost impossible to get out of bed and get going. To be honest, I felt much the same myself.
But there was one incentive to be up, showered, dressed and ready by 7.00 am, and that was the possibility of sneaking 15 minutes of a much loved television programme before leaving for the bus stop.
It was almost an accident the first time we realized that “The Goodies” was on each morning. I’d been ironing while the children were getting ready one day and decided to turn the TV on for a few minutes. Flipping through the television guide I’d been delighted to find that this old favorite of my teenage years was back for another re-play.
“The Goodies” was a British half-hour comedy programme, of the slapstick variety, made between 1970 and 1980. With story lines that were never meant to be taken seriously, and three very likeable, but mischievous, main characters, “The Goodies” live on forever as my favorite television show of all time. The humor cuts across the generations and is just as popular with Kylie and Matt in 2001 as it was with their Mother in 1975.
Seeing a need to motivate my two lethargic teenagers on the last day of school, I turned on the television and before long, the familiar theme song began to play. Recognizing the story as one of the very best, I called out to the children over the sound of hair being dried and teeth being brushed.
“You’d better hurry! It’s the ‘Bunfight at the OK Tearoom’.”
Instantly Kylie and Matt ran to sit down and enjoy the nonsensical story about the time “The Goodies” struck it rich in a Cornish Cream Mine. Being able to start our day with a chuckle seemed to help take the sting out of being pulled from bed so early. There’s nothing like a good laugh to put us in a great frame of mind.
Now you'd be excused for thinking that this leads perfectly into a message about how a “merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22), and although that is most definitely true, it’s not where I’m going. In fact, there’s a little bit of trivia about “The Goodies” which seems to almost fly in the face of that particular bit of wisdom.
This particular television programme holds the record of literally causing someone to die laughing.
One episode tickled the funny bone of one British gentleman so much that his laughter caused him to have a fatal heart attack. Just days after the gentleman's funeral, his widow wrote to the three cast members, (Bill Oddie, Graham Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor) and thanked them for making her husband’s last moments so happy.
So although the health benefits of a good laugh are actually quite substantial (apart from this particular case), the benefits to the soul are enormous.
Why do we laugh? What is it that causes us to respond with laughter to things that are funny? The same question could be asked regarding tears when we’re sad. Although there are probably scientific reasons, I really believe that these outward manifestations are God-given instruments for our emotional health. They act as release valves when pressure starts to build up and stop us from exploding in an inappropriate way and time. They also prevent us from imploding, which isn’t as “messy” to everyone around us, but is of far greater danger to the one who bottles everything up inside.
Being a “strong, silent type” isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. In fact, people who refuse to exhibit their emotions will more than likely, some day, some time, find themselves cracking up!
When King Solomon went on his search for significance and purpose in life, he made the following wise statement:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to weep and a time to laugh”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1,4a NIV)
We were created with definite needs in our spirit, soul and body. When we neglect any one of these areas, we end up with problems. First and foremost, our spirit needs to be maintained through prayer, the Word and fellowship with other believers. This has to be at the top of the list because if our spirit is neglected, then everything else will be out of balance. It’s vital because this is the part of our life that communicates with God, and to not feed our spirit is the equivalent of sticking our fingers in our ears and ignoring the gentle whispers of the Lord.
Our bodies most definitely do need to be attended to, but not obsessively so. We need to make sure that we’re eating well, sleeping well and getting regular exercise, because these vessels of ours have the job of carrying out so much of the work that God has created us to do.
Then comes our soul, which is our mind, will and emotions. The soul has a tendency to want to rule the roost, and we have to make sure that we keep it under the direction of our spirit. But, we also need to make sure that it stays healthy. We do this by making sure that we allow the mind of Christ to guide our thinking, rather than taking the world's point of view. We do this by guarding our hearts against those things that would pollute our soul, and we do it by allowing our emotions to do what they were designed to do.
We do need to keep in mind that an excess of emotion is just as dangerous and debilitating to the soul as is a lack. But when we allow ourselves the freedom to respond naturally to events and circumstances around us, then we’ll have a soul that is better able to cope with the pressures of life.
Of course the only way we can ever say “It is well with my soul”, is when we have an assurance of our salvation through Jesus Christ. But a balanced and normal emotional life will definitely help to keep our soul in tip top condition.
So if you’ve been holding back the tears and trying to be strong, or resisting the urge to chuckle because it seems too immature, now is the time to let them come out. After all, a little bit of emotion does you good!
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“It is pleasing to the dear God whenever thou rejoicest or laughest from the bottom of thy heart.”
~ Martin Luther ~
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