“Think of yourself just as a seed, waiting patiently in the earth—waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time—up into the Real world, the Real waking. I suppose that all our present life, looked back on from there, will seem but a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming. It is nearer now than when I began this letter.”
-From Letters to an American Lady, by C.S. Lewis
A Good Word for Birthdays
When I was six years old, I was excited to turn seven. It wasn’t because I expected to be more beautiful or healthy, rather, I expected to understand more things as I grew older, and I greatly looked forward to that. I feel the same way now in my 50’s. There is always something to learn and to understand.
Although I’m not getting any younger, neither is anybody else. Aging is a collective problem, not an isolated one. Birthdays, on the other hand, are personal, and, if viewed rightly, have nothing to do with aging. Every one of us knows someone who’s lived plenty of years without exhibiting any real maturity or wisdom, and, hopefully, we also know someone who exhibits grace and wisdom as a reward of their years. Aging tests what is yet undeveloped in us. Birthdays celebrate the progress we’ve made.
As we get older, we often become more and more distracted with our physical bodies, both their appearance and health. But we should think of our physical body as a car we are gifted. Not one of us had a choice in the make or the model, only whether or not we take care of what we’ve been given. When an event or the passage of time brings the use of the car to a halt, it’s important to understand we are the driver, not the car.
The car doesn’t celebrate journeys made, the driver does. That’s what birthdays are for. A journey means progress – and new beginnings. Isaiah 43:
“Remember not the former things, nor consider
the things of old. Behold, I am doing
a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not
perceive it? I will make a way in
the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
A journey that involves heartache, disappointment, illness, and death is no barrier to progress; He makes a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. It’s up to us not only to leave the past behind in His sea of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, but to fully accept and embrace every new iteration of ourselves that He makes a way for us to realize while we are still here. A birthday, for me, celebrates what God has brought me through, and what He has yet to show me and teach me; what stores of His grace I have yet to discover. Outwardly we degrade physically, there’s no debate on that – but the potential of inward renewal is exhilarating. It contains many doors of discovery into the future, all the way into eternity.
David said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” – he saw what we should see when we look at ourselves. It’s lost on grown-ups, who are distracted by their own years and experiences, but Jesus has admonished us to become like little children – and what little child dreads his or her own birthday?