Happy birthday to me!!!
Yes, today’s my special day. That’s how I choose to think of it, and on my birthday I make it a point to feel special all day. I’m nice to myself, and I revel in other people’s niceness to me.
So far today…
I’ve rubbed peppermint lotion on my feet.
I’ve had Cocoa Wheats for breakfast. I still remember the jingle from the TV commercials of my childhood: “Cocoa Wheats, Cocoa Wheats, can’t be beat. It’s the creamy, hot cereal with the cocoa treat.” But I digress.
I’ve worn fun socks.
I’ve put vanilla in my tea.
I’ve been yelled a “happy birthday” greeting by a student whose birthday is also today.
I’ve been fed birthday cake by one friend and hugged by another.
I’ve been told “Happy birthday!” by numerous staff members and have received two cards through the campus mail.
I’ve even been given a guitar pick by one special buddy–and I don’t play the guitar. (I’ll use it with my dulcimer.)
And the day’s only half over.
I began thinking of my birthday yesterday when I edited an essay written by my boss. It read, in part:
…When I was a young man…I often thought of the gas gauge on my car. The full mark meant I had my whole life ahead and at the three-quarter mark I still had most of my life to live. But when the needle was on half-full, half of my life had already been lived. From that point on, there were fewer years ahead of me than the number that had already gone by. Well, my gas gauge is now just below the one-quarter-full mark…It is a reminder that each quickly passing year is tilting the scales rapidly to the final days of my life. In my mid-60’s the passing of another year has a definite impact on the reality that fewer years are left…
My first reaction to this paragraph was, “Wow. Bummer.” Yet in context this gentleman (whose own birthday is later this month) didn’t sound depressive, but merely realistic. His words are truth, and we all might as well face it.
Today I’m 51. I used to think of the 50’s as “middle age”–until I realized that would be true only if I lived past 100. It was a bit eerie when it dawned on me that I was already in–if not past–my mid-life years. Yes, as my employer so aptly put it, the scales are rapidly tilting.
Yet somehow, at least for today, that doesn’t bother me. I don’t walk around thinking of death but the older I get, the more it looms as a certainty in the back of my mind. I’ve never really feared it, and with every passing year I find myself dreading it less and less. The past year has been a time of spiritual re-awakening for me in many ways, and I know that death will be simply the awesome fulfillment of the faith and experience I’ve had since childhood. “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12.)
No, for me the problem isn’t as much dying as it is living. In the song, “Work” on Jars of Clay’s album, Good Monsters, there’s a line that says, “I have no fear of drowning; it’s the breathing that’s taking all this work.” It’s the little things that give me trouble: being unselfish, kind, longsuffering, humble, obedient and, well, you get the idea. It’s doing things that, after being a Christian for 40 years, should come as naturally as breathing.
Like my boss, though, I’m not discouraged–just realistic. And part of that realism is knowing that the Father created me, the Son died for me and the Spirit empowers me. My prayer for today:
O my God, relying on Your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain
pardon for my sins,
the help of Your grace,
and life everlasting,
through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.
— “Act of Hope,” St. Meinrad Prayer Book
May it be your prayer, too.