“You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4)
We are celebrating a spate of birthdays in our household these days, events that don’t necessarily stop with cake. The person of honor is free from all household work on his or her day; the breakfast and dinner menu wraps around their chosen preferences; and gifts abound. While these latter are not necessarily expensive or lavish, they are well-chosen after much deliberation, and the giver receives just as much, or more, pleasure in watching their opening as the recipient. Everyone gives something.
In short, birthdays are big. It’s part of the dowry I brought into the marriage, when I decided to spend the rest of my life with a good, gracious man who happened to be raised in a household where birthdays weren’t such a grand affair. After 33 years, he has learned differently.
And so have our kids: whatever legacy I’ve managed to pass on (and as an ordinary person I don’t have public funds to set up an institution or library in my honor), it’s this: all of the progeny know that birthdays, theirs or anyone else’s, are a big deal. And when they meet an uninitiated sort who mentions it happens to be their birthday that day, oh well, my children are advocates for something better:
“Your birthday matters because it’s your day,” they tell the person. “The day is special because you are special. Celebrate!” and then they’ll do something, anything for that person to ensure that somebody noticed and honored the birthday, and the Birthday Person.
In a society that prides itself on being cool, savvy, cynical, and smooth, birthdays are frequently looked upon like breast milk — you don’t have much to do with them after infancy ends. Only an immature person, the voices murmur, gets excited about cake, or balloons, or presents, or worse yet, wearing a cardboard golden crown, and the impression given to those who still wake up with a sense of anticipation because it is their day, is that they’re hopelessly jejune:
“Grow up. Be sophisticated. Detach yourself. Don’t care too much.”
For some reason, this attitude of emotional distance is admired, and those who cultivate a weary sense of smooth urbanity are looked upon as something to look up to. What low standards we have.
One of our recent birthdays was a shared one, the six-year-old with a 24-year-old, the child knowing full well that a birthday is cause for celebration, while the adult, who is new to this sort of thing, at first reluctant to allow a fuss to be made around him. Well, that didn’t last long, and the evening ended with the two honored humans taking turns opening presents, exclaiming over what the other received, and fully immersing themselves of the specialness of the day.
This is good and right and true, because each and every human being on this planet is a unique, and beloved, creation of God. Made in His image, we are ALL special, and while most of the time, it’s easy to forget this because the world of men chooses only a few from its number to promote and extol and adulate, in God’s eyes, all of His children are precious.
“You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you,” God says in Isaiah 43:4, and while yes, I know that this verse is addressed to the Israelite people (and it’s in a completely different context from birthday celebrations), this is a good time to mention that God is perfectly capable of raising up more children for Abraham out of stones (Matthew 3:9), and I, and you, and many others, are among those children.
And as children of our loving Father, we have been given many gifts, starting with the first breath of life in the first moment of our very first birthday. Subsequent birthdays, even — and most especially — after we have grown up into grownups, are a meaningful opportunity to acknowledge our Father’s love: this is something that we need a lifetime to understand, because there are so many counter messages assaulting us from the world of men.
We are precious. We are valuable. We are loved. Regardless of our age (including whether or not we are still in our mother’s womb), our job title, our background, our last name, or the social income caste into which our corporate culture places us, we are of inestimable worth for no other reason than that God our Father created us in His image, and He loves us very much.
And He rejoices over, and celebrates, our birthdays.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my strong desire is to reach — one by one — my real, regular, and ordinary brothers and sisters on this planet and tell them just how extraordinary they are, because they are loved by our extraordinary God.
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