Danish comedian Victor Borge is credited with observing, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Jason Micheli must surely be Borge’s prodigy. Though Micheli lives in Alexandria, VA, his humor in writing and in conversations over Skype have brought him very near me here in Fly Over Country.
It All Started with a Punch in the Gut
Father Richard Rohr once described Number 1’s on the Enneagram, sometimes referred to as Reformers or Idealists, as being the sort of person that takes life’s adversities as a full body blow. While I don’t score as a Number 1 on the Enneagram, I took the news that Jason Micheli had been diagnosed with cancer as if it were a full body blow.
Remember, we have never met. But that voice!
I heard Jason for the first time when he called into a friend’s podcast and left a message. Googling led me to his website, tamedcynic. His writing resonated not for just a few reasons. I followed his blog. Then more than a year ago it went dark. There were no new posts. I could not figure out what had happened. No phone number. No Skype handle.
Several months later I noticed posts on his website. Clicking over to read left me stunned. Jason was battling cancer. If I may describe the news as a punch in the gut, Jason had been hounded by a pain the gut. An exploratory test left him with the results, “You have stage serious cancer.”
No laughing matter.
Humor Plays Many Roles
G. Elton Trueblood, author of The Humor of Christ, once said, “Never trust a theologian who doesn’t have a sense of humor.” If that is the case, then Jason Micheli racks up plenty of trust.
Some ridicule sarcasm. Others find it a gift. It would be hard to argue that on occasion Jesus didn’t employ the practice. Micheli points out that sometimes humor serves as a way to hide from difficult times. Liken it to nervous laughter. Other times, laughter provides just the right opening for very difficult truths. Cancer is Funny plays this role well.
But, make no mistake, Micheli’s cancer was not funny in the sense that the title conveys. You will have to listen to the podcast to hear Jason describe what he has in mind. One thing to remember, most authors do not choose their titles. Jason’s personal preference would have been, My Cancer Is Funny. He has no desire to avoid the gravity of stage serious cancer.
Humor may not be for you. But, I am betting this book is.
Suffering poses a great dilemma for all human beings. What do we do with those experiences? Everyone looks for meaning beneath the ashes. Pastors are no different.
It may be that we pastors struggle to a greater extent because we have attempted to help others in their suffering. We often wince when we think of words we have offered in an attempt to provide comfort. We may need to confess to some of the poorest theology during those instances.
Would that we learn to embrace our humanity. Maybe we should start by acknowledging the full humanity of Jesus.
Listen for this and more as we share a conversation around Jason’s book, Cancer Is Funny.
You may connect with Jason –