Thirty-two is no “big birthday”, but I’ll remember mine for a long time.
I haven’t settled on a logline yet. Twenty-three was, “that birthday when I was alone and snuck Taco Bell into the theatre for my fifth viewing of Revenge of Sith“. Twenty-six was “that birthday when my wife took me on a toy-tour at Target and bought me my XLT camera” (this was while I was moonlighting as a toy journalist, so both aspects were significant; plus she got me Sweeney Todd on DVD and the soundtrack). Thirty, of course, was the “the most super party ever”.
For thirty-two, I’m thinking, “that birthday when my self-involvement reached its worst depths to date” or something a bit more catchy. See, this birthday I’ve been incredibly self-focused, and I use that term specifically. I am not referring to being “selfish”, just overly reflective on my “self”–and for those who know me, you know that any adding to my self-reflection is heaping fuel on an already burning fire.
Truth be told, I approached this birthday in a wholly different perspective than the last two, and doing so took a significant emotional toll on me. Though I spent several prior birthdays reflecting on my life as a child of God, this year I looked at my life compared to my peers as well as cultural norms for those in my age group.
This was an error.
For those who want a rundown, we should talk in person, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll just say that I looked at about five areas of life where I felt I should be at certain points which I felt both my peers and many younger than me had reached. Further, I considered my present status primarily in light of these factors rather than in my place in the Kingdom. This was sinful, and I confess that to you all (I’ve also done a fair amount of repenting before the throne about it).
The reality of my situation is simple: when I look at my life apart from Christ, I feel like a failure; when I see myself as a child of God, I am satisfied beyond my circumstances and choices. The challenge for me is to consistently do the latter while my old, sinful nature constantly pushes me toward the former.
Ironically, the very social network that usually leads me to this comparative self-abasement was a source of great encouragement for me this year. One person wrote on my wall that she hoped I felt “incredibly loved”. Indeed, that hope was met. Beyond greetings, cards, and gifts, I had the benefit of late night conversations with a visiting, former college roommate with whom I could process these emotions. My office graciously put icing on the emotional cake when I returned to work Tuesday to find my room decorated and full of treats aplenty brought for our mutual consumption. And my wife has been a constant source of not only affection but encouragement in my present slump, once again affirming the truth of my “marrying up”. As much as my inward turn resulted in feeling low about myself, engaging others made me feel valued. Christ, of course, cemented this more, as I spent mindful time in the Word the last two days.
So why share this?
Well, I think the experience sums up “Living Life Loving Christ” nicely. Christians walk this earth, but it is not our home–and its levels for measuring success are not ours. Our satisfaction can and should rest simply in whom we are in Christ, where we stand eternally– not in our status, accomplishments, or lack thereof. It’s hard to feel discouraged in light of redemptive grace and The Holy Spirit’s ever-presence. When we lose site of our identity in Christ, we lose site of who we are. This wounds us and dishonors him.
Thus, we repent and return to our true and great love, and he reminds of who we are because of who he is. The regrets, self-loathing, and present guilt fade to grey, and our eyes are again alight with his mercy. We can see again, not unlike we when wipe frost from a window.
And when we do, we realize that we are not so bad as we surmised. In fact we live in the proof that we are loved and valued, far more than we dared thought possible. These are fine thoughts to remember as one reflects on the anniversary of his or her birth, and these truths are inspiration for the year to come.
Here’s hoping I’ll do a better job reflecting on them by the age of thirty-three.
Thanks for reading,