Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Birthday Wish


When I was younger, I could not wait to turn a year older. I looked forward to the parties and to the impending privileges. A young boy looks forward to being able to participate in groups that are bound by age or grade - for me it was football in the 5th grade. A young man looks forward to riding a motorcycle or driving a car at 16. Then, in short order there is graduation from high school at 18 and its attendant privileges. Then there are the privileges of turning 21, which some consider to be a 'liberating' accomplishment; though I'm not really sure how libation consumption is 'liberating'!

Yet at some point, age ceases to be the attainment of privilege, but rather a mile marker of life. With all the privileges of age, have we actually made any meaningful accomplishments or achieved any meaningful status? Are we married, have we had children and do we work in a vocation we love by age 30 or even 40? Is our marriage or our singleness all that we thought it would be? By the time we are 40 we are wondering what happened to the first 39 years and why we cannot physically accomplish the activities we did when we were 20... And so after the age of 40, we really cease to celebrate birthdays annually, but by the decade. Birthdays become quiet affairs with our families or closest friends. Quiet evenings out with a friend or spouse. Maybe a dinner at home with friends.

But let me present you with something a bit more challenging. Food for thought if you will...

• Birthdays remind us that we are alive...

If a birthday should do anything for us, it should remind us that we have been graced with life; and no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves, life is always worth living.

• Birthdays remind us that our time is now...

All we have is today. Tomorrow brings its own set of griefs, but if we live today to its its fullest potential, we will have lived well. As Jesus said, "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34 NASB95).

• Birthdays allow us to assess the past and plan the future...

Much of the time - as Western Americans - we are driven, frantically living from day to day, rushing around trying to meet deadlines, pick-up children, and get the job done. Birthdays force us to take a moment to assess where we have been and where we would like or need to be in the future.

• Birthdays encourage us to embrace who we are or to change it...

As we assess our own path, we find out who we are and we can deduce whether we like that person or not. On one hand, we are who we are and our circumstances, to some degree, are difficult to change. But as difficult as it is for us, nothing is impossible with God.

• Birthdays allow us be thankful for the grace in our lives.

2009 was a tough year for me; yet, I am thankful for so many of those experiences, even the ones that cost me a great deal of pain. Birthdays remind us that there is another looking out for our welfare, as much as we are: God. I am convinced that God brings people into our lives, not to tempt us or lead us astray, but to temper us, to make us stronger, to force us to look at the parts of our lives that need fine tuning or outright change. We can either reject those 'others' as temptation, or we can find a place for them as those agents of change we desperately need and the grace of God in our lives. I have friends like that.

I have a friend who is celebrating a birthday this very moment. Probably has had a cup of coffee already. Is possibly getting ready to feed her children and have a relaxing day with family. Tonight she gets treated to a fine dinner with her husband and friends. To her and to each of you, I give this challenge: embrace the day and the small graces you will encounter in it. Assess the past, plan the future, but live in the day. Find Father-Son-Holy Spirit in the day and in the moment.

May God bless all of you and your birthdays this year.

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