When I was pregnant, I read all the books. My first errand after I found out the news was to go to library so I could stock up on how-tos and stories and firsthand accounts. And since Graham made his appearance two weeks late, I filled the bonus time with—you guessed it—more books. If there’s a literary equivalent to morning sickness, I had it.
After all that preemptive reading, I thought I knew the range of scenarios to expect when my baby made his big debut. Sure, we’d be surprised by the gender, and we didn’t know the status of our baby’s health. But I thought I had a pretty good idea of what might happen in the delivery room.
What no one prepared me for was my own reaction. To my great astonishment, when I first laid eyes on my son, I laughed.
I will spare you the gory details of my birth story, but once we arrived at the hospital, things moved along more quickly than anyone anticipated.
“Get comfortable,” our nurse told us the afternoon we were to be induced. “Chances are, nothing will start happening until tomorrow morning, so plan to eat dinner get a good night’s sleep.”
Daniel dutifully changed into his pajamas and tried to wind down, but “comfortable” didn’t seem to be on the agenda for the evening. Things started happening—and happening in rapid succession—and when Daniel pointed out that the medical staff had set up the table with all the instruments, we realized THIS WAS HAPPENING. (This was also the point he changed back into his real clothes.)
After a whirlwind of pain and puke and pushes and more bodily fluids than I can even comprehend, the doctor held up a squirming bundle, our own slimy trophy. But my glasses were off, and I couldn’t see a thing. Was our baby okay?
So I turned to Daniel, who had been holding my hand for the past several hours, never complaining while I squeezed the feeling right out of his fingers. I locked eyes with him, asking a million wordless questions.
“It’s a boy,” he whispered, his eyes brimming with tears and joy and love. So my first glimpse of Graham was not my own; it was through the eyes of his father. And in that instant, I knew. This tiny miracle, this beloved child of God—he was healthy and whole and as perfect as a baby could be. And as the tears dripped down my cheeks, I laughed.
God’s birth announcement to Abraham and Sarah is interlaced with laughter. When God tells Abraham he and Sarah will have a child in their old age, his response is to laugh:
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?”
His wife, Sarah, laughed too:
Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
But did you ever notice that only Sarah is chastened for laughing?
The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have a theory about why their responses are judged differently: Sarah laughed at God. Abraham laughed with God.
Sometimes God’s plans are nothing shy of ludicrous. We’d be crazy not to laugh (and I have to believe God is laughing too). So maybe it’s okay to laugh when God whispers his big, impossible promises to us. The question is, will we laugh with cynicism or hope? Bitterness or trust?
One of the things I love about Sarah’s story is that God fulfills his promise even though she laughed at him. Isn’t it a relief that his faithfulness isn’t conditional on our ability to believe it? He knows our humanity; he knows we sometimes laugh to protect our hearts from getting hurt. And he is faithful, even when we laugh at him.
In that hospital room, like Sarah, I laughed. I laughed because God’s plans are audacious. I laughed because his ways are so ridiculous and so brimming with joy that my body couldn’t help but let it out.
Notably, Sarah’s story didn’t end with her laughing at God. In fact, God offers her a turn of gracious irony:
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”
She moved from laughing at God to laughing with him. And she named her son Laughter to prove it.
Sometimes God’s ways are so outlandish and farfetched that all we can do is laugh. The question is, when God invites us into something impossible, how will we laugh? Will we laugh with him or at him?
Whatever audacious thing you are believing God for today, I invite you to join Sarah and me, and laugh.