Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Thing About Birthdays

The thing about birthdays is we get to a place where we really don't want them anymore. Why is that? I suppose it's because we don't like to be reminded of our mortality. That's the standard answer. For me it's a little bit different.

I can remember loving birthdays when I was a little boy, especially my own. Like a small lap dog running in circles so excited I'd wet my pants telling everybody who would listen in my childish sing song, "Tomorrow's my birthday, tomorrow's my birthday. Parties and presents and games. My birthday is November 2nd, just two days after Halloween". I loved Halloween. That is when I officially started celebrating my birthday. I got as much mileage as I could out of that. I would have Halloween/Birthday Parties. All my little friends would come in their costumes and we would have such fun.

When I turned seven or eight I'm not sure now which it was. I was Johnnie Reb for Halloween. I was fascinated with the Civil War and I like to root for the underdogs. My mother I suppose considered it healthy self-expression. I had a cap with the stars and bars on top, gray trousers with a holster and six shooter, and gray shirt with gold fringe and buttons that said CSA. I wore the southern gray proudly after all I did live in Southern California. My Dad told me he was going to take my brother and me to Disneyland for my birthday. I was so excited. We didn't live with our Dad.

The Disneyland day arrived. Technically my birthday was over. I mean it was like November 3rd, 4th, or 5th. But I still was wearing my Johnnie Reb costume. After all we were still celebrating my birthday right? I ran downstairs ahead of my older brother and piled into my Dad's car. The shock and embarrassment of my stepmother ground me to a halt. "Go back upstairs and change your clothes or you're not going with us, we're not taking you anywhere dressed like that". "But it's my birthday", I protested. "You said you were taking me to Disneyland". "Change your clothes or stay here", she demanded, with some expletive words about my Mother and me. It hit me in the heart like a poison dart frog dart. I don't know which was worse her words or my Dad's silence. I felt like I was just pushed down onto the pavement where little pieces of gravel embedded themselves into my boyish knees. "But it's my birthday", I sobbed and ran upstairs and stayed home with the comfort of my Mother.

Birthdays were never the same after that. Something inside me died. If I try hard I can still imagine the feeling of despair when the promises of a father turn to silent smoke.

But another Father responded to my deep hurt. He whispered life and love to my soul again. I was born again and set upright. He tells me that I am going to live with Him forever so that thing about my mortality and birthdays doesn't work with me. I love birthdays! You see I believe I am going to live with Him forever. Since He can get so deep inside me and heal my pain and despair I know I can trust Him. Besides, everyday now is my birthday! Each new day is a gift from God; a present I receive with joy and unwrap with excitement. Everyday brings me a new adventure with Him, my Father, my God. I don't want Disneyland anymore. I just want God.

Psalm 68: 4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts,
Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him.
5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
6 God makes a home for the lonely;
He leads out the prisoners into prosperity,
Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalm 23: 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.