Does God have a sense of humour?
Faith can be arduous.
There, I said it.
For anyone who has been a follower of Jesus for more than three hours, you will know that statement to be utterly true. If you don’t agree with me, I would strongly suggest you take a step back and consider the possibility that you’re not doing it right.
As for me, I’m often not doing it right. I fail at faith and I fail at life. Yet this is exactly why God has called me to the ministry he has; a ministry in stand-up comedy. Yes, you read that right. I have been called to perhaps one of the most dubious positions a Christian could hold; being consistently funny, clean (whatever that means) and to present the gospel without compromise. All this from a woman with a traumatic history of infant loss, clinical anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a chronic pain condition and young motherhood.
If I didn’t know any better, I would say God was a sadist. But because I know that not to be true, I have to conclude that God does, in fact, have a tremendous sense of humour; a facet of his character I am frequently asked about. I also know that the moment I take my eyes off Him, I sink faster than Peter in the Sea of Galilee.
So what does being “called” into stand-up comedy actually mean? Well, just between you and me, I’m still figuring that out. At this point, what I can tell you is that God uses my comedy to build up his church in love and joy. He uses it to break down barriers and to encourage those who are struggling in their faith and in their lives. He is also using it to share the gospel with those who have either not heard it or not heard it, and to be a living example of the gospel in action in an overwhelmingly anti-gospel professional environment.
I won’t lie to you, it’s tremendously difficult. Personal struggles aside (which is no mean feat), the pressure of trying to meet everyone’s expectations of what it is to be clean, funny and Godly can squash me faster than my one-year-old excitedly gripping a banana. The financial stress of running a business as a performing artist simply trying to cover my costs can be suffocating. The constant anxiety, fear and doubt about my own ability to perform well professionally in an industry where talent and skill are in abundance far beyond my own makes me want to curl up in a ball and not leave my house (and some days I do). Then there is the universal anxiety every comedian is intimately acquainted with; will I be funny? It’s kind of a make-or-break deal in the comedy industry, and the pressure is indescribable in 800 words or less.
Cue Peter and his adventure. I love the account of Peter walking on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-31). I love the humour in Jesus’s personality which we so often miss when we read the Bible.
Here we have the disciples sent ahead of Jesus across the Sea of Galilee, battling strong winds to get to the other side. Jesus intends to catch up with them at some point. I want you, just for a moment, to close your eyes and stand on that shore pretending you are Jesus. Your buddies are in the boat ahead of you, rowing their little hearts out. What are your options?
Could you order the wind to settle to make life easier for them? Hmm — did that last week.
Could you be taken in the spirit to the other side of the lake to meet them with a cooked breakfast? Nope — been there, done that.
I know! How about totally freaking them out by casually strolling past them on the water in the middle of the stormy night? Now that’s a winner. It’s going to be epic.
While Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man, and I just can’t seem to fathom any man executing a prank this awesome without at least a twinkle in his eye! What I love even more about this story is Peter. After peeing his pants from seeing a “ghost” on the water, he actually has the faith to get out of the boat when Jesus tells him to come out onto the water! But it’s not long before he gets distracted by the storm around him, loses focus and starts to sink.
This is the story of my life, and never is it demonstrated to me more tangibly than when I am feeling crushed under the weight of expectation in my comedy ministry. It is so easy to get swept up in the technicality of my craft, the deep desire for good reviews, and the encouragement and affirmation of a job well done. It’s crucial to care about these things if you want to do them to the best of your ability, but so often I start to descend into the pit of hopelessness when I look at my own skills (far short of where I’d like them to be) or my ticket sales (often far less than I want them to be), or the times when I have misjudged or not presented the gospel as faithfully as I could have (the mistake that guts me more than any other).
It’s in these times of being reminded how inadequate I am that I discern my eyes are no longer on Jesus and what he has for me in this ministry. When I reach for him as Peter reached for Jesus on that windy sea, everything rights itself and is put in its proper place. And although I may never know exactly how Jesus delivered his punch line to Peter, I am inclined to think it is the same way I’m sure he delivers it to me — with a twinkle in his eye saying, “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Hannah Boland is touring her current show The Best Medicine throughout churches and independent venues across Australia and will be participating as part of the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival in September. For Hannah’s full bio, books and more information about her ministry visit www.hannahboland.com.au
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