I went to a Renovare regional conference this past weekend. I had been looking forward to it for ages…for years, actually. (If you want more info on Renovare, check it out in the links section.) I think what I was expecting was lots of contemplative moments — and teaching about how to live and grow through a contemplative Christian life. I was thirsting for that, actually, and you probably know just what I mean if you’re also a busy mom (or parent). I guess in some strange way I had an image of Richard Foster as a rather serious, quiet, monk-like man. I expected him to teach with authority, but also with a glowing, halo-like aura about him. That’s just a slight exaggeration. After all, he’s written what have been the seminal books in my own exploration of spiritual disciplines. Through his books, he’s introduced me to meditation and simplicity. Via the written page, at times he’s been like a spiritual director from afar.
And there were, in fact, powerful times of contemplation…during the singing of hymns, during times of corporate prayer, during moments of silence.
But what really surprised me — and blessed me — about the weekend was the hilarity. The racuous laughter, the chortles, the joking banter. I, and the rest of the conference participants, laughed long, hard, and frequently during the weekend. There was such joy, such mirth. It was good laughter too. Jokes at our own expense, sincerely funny comments. None of it mean-spirited or sarcastically cruel. Just good, ‘ole fun.
And I realized something that, to me, was profound. Practicing meditation and other contemplative disciplines should not lead one to be a pious, holier-than-thou, curmudgeon. It’s not meant to make us austere followers of Jesus. No, in fact, it fills us with the joy of the Holy Spirit who delights in giving gifts; with the merriness of God the Father who created the platypus and the stork; with the delight of the Christ who sat with children and enjoyed time with friends.
I’d had a strong misconception that has, thankfully, been corrected.
So I guess the point here, for me, is to really live in and relish the joy of the Christian life. And to banish — to banish far, far away — the imbalanced notion that meditation is for the “serious” or that it should lead to an austere attitude in my own spiritual walk. No, in fact, it should — and will — lead me to relish the wonderful love of God and to laugh more, and more, and more.