“Yes. Yes, I am.”
So goes a frequent exchange between a joyful Billy and me. He doesn’t want me to reply in any other way, and he doesn’t want me to stop being goofy. Karen often wants me to improvise songs about broccoli from Tennessee or to tell her stories about bacon.
As if to prove the point, she just walked into the office, hunched over, knees slapping her hands, saying, “Daddy! Help me! My hands keep high-fiving my legs!”
We are a goofy family, always have been. I remember telling my Dad that he was goofy, and I remember thinking it was the greatest compliment in the world. As a kid, I didn’t know exactly what it meant, but I knew it had something to do with being more interested in having fun together than with worrying about appearances or other people’s reactions (but not in a sense of being rude and inconsiderate to others). I knew that it meant my Dad cared more about giving me joy and showing me love than about how he looked doing it.
As a teacher, I think maybe that was a big part of connecting with my ninth-graders; I loved when they’d let themselves look silly and have fun instead of worry about embarrassing themselves. I loved doing that for them, too.
As an adult, I’ve learned that “goofy” sometimes also suggests that something’s wrong with someone, that they’re “not quite right in the head,” as the saying goes. Well, that probably applies a bit, too, but God loves us anyway, and so do our kids.
Karen often tells me, “Daddy, don’t ever change.”
They’re sweet, trusting, and a bit overly generous in their praise, but they love us – despite our faults and failings as parents. We get upset. We make mistakes. We lose our tempers. We act on incomplete knowledge. We apologize, hug, and work on doing better – just like we ask them to do.
That’s why I love our banner picture. At the end of several attempts to get a serious family portrait, we all wanted to take a goofy one. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best one, and the one truest to us. And yet, God has (inexplicably) allowed us to serve Him in ministry, to share His joy and His love with others, to be more concerned with what we give than with how we look doing it. To quote a goofy movie from my youth, “We’re not worthy!” And yet, He deems us worthy.
Our ministry is not going to be to split Karen limb from limb, nor to make silly faces, nor to horse around, but those are outpourings and expressions of the love and joy that fill us from Christ. Our ministry is to tell stories of God’s work in and through people in South Africa; what could be more appropriate to that than exuberant, unfettered joy?
We have many good role models for that – including my wonderful, wonderfully goofy Dad – but we also have a biblical one. When the Ark of the Covenant came to Jerusalem, David danced for joy with all his might. Criticized later for being undignified, he replied, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” Praising God was more important to King David than avoiding embarrassment, and the Bible calls him “a man after God’s own heart.”
In our hearts, in our home, in our worship, and in our work, may we always reflect the joy of the hope that God has given us.
- King David’s Dance Parade occurs in 2 Samuel 6.
- King David is called “a man after God’s own heart” in 1 Samuel 13:14.
- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
Near the end of writing this, Karen interrupted me again to make me swallow a kiss off my hand, and then she traced its path from my stomach to my heart. “Now, remember, Daddy: you will never forget anything that goes straight into your heart. Write that down, because that’ll be sweet for the thing.” She’s certainly right in her first claim, and I have to admit I’m partial to the second.