January 10, 2020

Reflection / John Shaughnessy

Laugh with God

John ShaughnessyI have a friend who tells jokes to God. It’s a tradition he carries on from his father, who believed that God hears so many pleas for help and stories of sadness in a day that he could use an extra laugh or a smile. In that moment when he shares his joke, my friend says he feels closer to God and his father.

Then there’s the friendship that Jane Crady has forged with God. Crady has dedicated her life to helping people whose lives have been devastated by floods, tornadoes and some of the worst hurricanes in American history. Despite the disasters she has seen, she says she always witnesses the healing touch of God.

Crady told me, “I see miracles every day. God sends people. One time, there was a gal, and we were pretty much done with fixing her house after Hurricane Katrina. But the tile needed to be laid on the floors. And we couldn’t find anybody that had tile experience. And so she and I were sitting under a tree talking about this, and my phone rang.

“It was a call from a guy who’s volunteering. He’s coming from Missouri. And he’s by himself. He asks if I could put him to work. I said, ‘What kind of work do you do?’ He said, ‘I’m a tile man.’ ”

Crady continued, “It happens all the time like that. It really does. I just laugh with God now.”

I also know someone who reaches for two cups when he prepares to spend time with God. He fills one of the cups for himself and the other for God. Then he takes them to a table where he invites God to sit across from him—two friends sharing time and a drink. His two-cup tradition gives him a concrete focus on God during their time together. He says that God, just through listening, always re-fills his cup by the end of their shared time.

Other friends pursue a more traditional approach in their relationship with God. They spend time in a chapel or a church, listening for his voice in their silence.

Each of us has our own way of inviting God into our lives. Each of us can find our own way to a friendship with God. Of course, for many of us, the thought of having a friendship with God and laughing with God is a hard concept to embrace. Yet the precedent of a friendship with God is present in the bonds that connected Jesus and the first group of people he chose as his own, the Apostles.

They traveled together, ate together and shared adventures together on a journey that lasted years. They talked about everything, from the basic concerns of what they would eat next to the deepest questions of their place in the world, their ties with each other and their connection with God. It was a full-access, 24-7, up-close-and-personal relationship marked by faith, trust and love, a relationship that Christ continued to offer even when the Apostles betrayed him, doubted him and abandoned him.

In his time with the Apostles, Christ was the essence of a best friend—someone you learn from, someone who forgives you your limitations, someone who encourages you to be the best person you can be. And in the darkest times, he finds a way to reach you, to let you know he’s there for you, to give you a reason to hope—and even a reason to laugh when the world gets too overwhelming. That’s how our best friends are. And God offers us that same kind of friendship—on a far higher level—just as he did to the Apostles.

Think of a moment from your life when God has been there for you as a friend, giving you just what you needed in an unexpected way that made you smile or laugh or feel comforted.

Think of a way you can invite God into your life as a friend.

Laugh with God.

(This reflection is an excerpt from John Shaughnessy’s book, Then Something Wondrous Happened: Unlikely encounters and unexpected graces in search of a friendship with God. The Criterion is inviting our readers to share your stories of how God has been there for you during a special moment in your life, giving you just what you needed in an unexpected way that made you smile or laugh or feel comforted. Please send your responses to John Shaughnessy by e-mail at jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion. 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)

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