I was at a close friend’s home a few days ago and I saw a copy of the painting, American Gothic. I studied the picture and the folks in it looked so familiar. All the sudden, it hit me! I had been to church a few times as a child and this looked like most everyone there.

For some reason, I felt like I had to be sad to be a Christian, because all the “church folk” I met were unhappy. The preacher read from the Bible in a language that was difficult for me to understand and it was like a funeral with the occasional “amen” murmured from the crowd.

Several years later, after I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I noticed that I didn’t have to be sad to be a Christian. I became a member of a church whose preacher was happy, funny, and just like all of us, sinned some of the time. We actually laughed during church and the sermons, although still from the Bible, were understandable to me. After I figured this out, it was like a load was lifted from my shoulders. For the first time, I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect to be a Christian and I pictured Jesus differently.

I see Jesus as my friend. I see Him as a happy person who is the purest form of “good” and “love” imaginable. Most important, I see Him as happy. How would it be possible to be Jesus Christ and not be happy?

So, for those of you considering going to church, but don’t want to put on your American Gothic face, just go. I believe the happiest of happy is “Jesus happy.”

Rick Stanfield is a syndicated columnist, motivational speaker and author. His latest book is “I Can and I Will.” For more information, visit his website at www.rickstanfield.com