I have a friend who, in a note on Facebook, attempted to assert her piousness by stating that she never “listened to a single secular song or watched a single secular TV show.” This was not, as I’m aware I’ve made it sound, done to make herself sound great or to flaunt her “holiness,” but merely to make it known as background information that she is, in fact, a good Christian.
This was over two years ago, and I still think about it on a regular basis.
Now, before you misinterpret me, let me make it clear: this woman is amazing, and she really does love Jesus a lot. I write none of the above to criticize her.
Unfortunately, though, she is not the only person I know who thinks (and lives) this way.
I’m just not the same.
I love music. On perhaps an unhealthy level. Our spare bedroom is half-filled with musical instruments and the collective gigabyte count of music between my husband and I rivals some radio stations.
Some of my favorite bands/artists include NeedtoBreathe, Death Cab for Cutie, Gavin DeGraw, MuteMath, Mumford & Sons, Andy Grammer, Fitz and the Tantrums, Tyrone Wells, Coldplay…the list could go on for a very long time. Some of these artists sing about Jesus. Some of them don’t.
I also love all things funny. I watch TV shows like The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Futurama, Mythbusters, 30 Rock, Friends, and (of course) Arrested Development. I love movies like Juno, Our Idiot Brother, Away We Go, and many other sarcastic comedies. I adore bloggers like Brittany Gibbons (barefootfoodie.com), Meredith Soleau (lifescrazyjoke.com), Matthew Inman (theoatmeal.com), Randall Munroe (xkcd.com), and Reza Farazmand (poorlydrawnlines.com). All these shows/movies/people make me laugh, sometimes so hard that I’m afraid it might kill me.
The problem is, aside from a couple of those bands, I couldn’t say the names of just about anything up there in a church without someone “praying for my soul.”
My enjoyment of these things is not because there are no Jesus-following versions (Extreme Days, anyone?), I just simply enjoy them. I relate to them on a deep, unexplainable level. And I refuse to stop doing so because they aren’t “holy enough” for other Christians.
Because the thing is, we were made to enjoy life.
This is not to say that our lives will be easy. Following Jesus is the via dolorosa, it is hard, and you will, in one way or another, be crucified. There are no shortage of biblical stories that attest to this. There are, however, plenty of verses that remind us, despite these difficulties, we are to “count it all joy,” to praise Jesus, to find happiness in the midst of our struggles.
Following Jesus doesn’t mean that you are now required to be serious all the time, or, like the ever-popular Vintage 21 videos state, “No laughing, unless it’s at how stupid the devil is.”
It means being joyful in spite of how difficult this kind of life can be.
Folks, there is no better way to stick it to Satan than to enjoy life. The mission statement of Hell is to destroy, to make things worse, and certainly to eradicate joy.
I am on a mission to find joy everywhere, whether that place loves Jesus or not.
I’m not saying that we can do whatever we want, as long as it makes us happy, because God wants us to be happy. That is hedonism, and it is not awesome. Deliberately seeking out sin does no good for anything. Happiness is a fleeting emotion.
But, those artists, and shows, and movies, and bloggers I mentioned above? That’s not their aim. They’re being real about life. They don’t romanticize the pain that comes with living. But they do look at the world in a way that says, “To Hell with all of you, I am going to make the best of this. I will turn this into something beautiful. I will find joy, and I will share it.”
Because joy is so much more than being happy. It is being full of something that is greater than any pain you might encounter. It is laughing into the mouth of the lion about to devour you. It does not deny pain, rather, it overcomes it.
Even though I haven’t met a single one of them, these people are so much more real to me than many of the ultra-religious Christians I know personally. They aren’t stiff. They don’t protest non-Christian TV shows or set fire to non-Christian records (as much as Arrested Development might think so).
They seek joy.
And I’ll be damned if I won’t too.