Birthdays

“We are always the same age inside.” ~Gertrude Stein

I rolled in just after midnight following a late night class with graduate students who were eager to recover the biblical meaning of evangelism. After checking messages and emails, I remembered that I am now officially a year older and nearer my own curtain call than ever before. The term birthday seems obvious enough. The word comes from the Middle English byrthe, which may be related to the old Welsh word brith, meaning blemish or pimple. Now we’re getting somewhere. Modern definitions treat birthdays as the anniversary of the day on which a person was born, typically treated as an occasion for celebration and the giving of gifts. A more sober view is that it marks the day from which we start counting down to the end. 

A more elevated perspective on birthdays is to acknowledge them as another opportunity to breathe and hope and love. I do not know what today holds, and doubt that anyone ever really does; instead, I can speak of expectations. I expect to brew coffee and deliver a cup to my wife when she awakes before downing my own. I expect to complete work responsibilities on time, then change into boots and jeans and scoot off to a family birthday dinner where I will be the guest of honor. I expect we will return home, settle in for the duration in comfort clothes and with comfort food. I expect that I will fall asleep in my recliner on cue, pretend I did not to my wife, then rouse myself enough to take the dog out and collapse into bed. Those are the routines and choices I predict, but the day will also doubtless be replete with unexpected opportunities to detect the hand of God, to observe incarnation at work, to be the evidence to someone that God still walks among us, and that the Creator cares more than just a little. Rather than resigning to the inevitability of the end, I will embrace the beauty of each moment as a beginning.

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