Wednesday, January 01, 2014

idle musings on 58 years

Today I turned 58. I actually enjoy growing older; I've enjoyed each year and look forward to as many more as God allows me. And I appreciate the well-wishes that I receive.

That being said, I don't celebrate birthdays. I always am a bit hesitant to say that—people always assume I don't want to get older. But, as I said, I enjoy getting older, so that's not the reason.

When I was younger, I always looked forward to celebrating my birthday. Being born on the first day of the new year has a few perks for a youngster: parades and a full day of football, no school, another batch of presents within a week of Christmas.

But once I became a Christian, things changed. The focus changed from being on me to being on Christ.

I began to ponder where Jesus talks about esteeming others more than oneself and "death to self" and what it meant in my own life. I noticed the narcissistic tendencies of celebrating birthdays—it certainly doesn't promote death to self, does it! I also noticed that there are only two birthday celebrations mentioned in scripture; in both of them, somebody loses their head! (Not a sound hermeneutical principle, by the way.)

More importantly, I noticed the general tendency in our society to elevate the individual to a god-like centrality. You miss someone's birthday and they have the right to be mad at you. After all, they deserve the recognition, right?

I began to question my involvement in that and how, as a Christian, I could model a different ethos, one of esteeming others more than oneself without putting them on a pedestal of worship. Of taking the focus off of them and me and putting it on Christ.

For me, that took the form of not celebrating birthdays. I'm not saying it is a sin for others to do so. I'm not even implying my view is "better" or "more spiritual." At this point, it seems appropriate to quote Paul:

Some consider one day more sacred than another; others consider every day alike. Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind. Those who regard one day as special do so to the Lord. Those who eat meat do so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and those who abstain do so to the Lord and give thanks to God. For we do not live to ourselves alone and we do not die to ourselves alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:5-8 (TNIV)
I've come to the conclusion that for me to "live to the Lord" excludes birthday celebrations. I'm comfortable with that and fully convinced in my own mind. Whether you agree or disagree should be immaterial to our walk together with Christ.

But I have found that many people get offended or defensive. I have to ask why that is so. I'm not suggesting they adopt my view—and I make that clear to them. I do think they should seek the Lord and his heart on the whole thing, but why so defensive?

Could it be that maybe it is a case of a cultural paradigm that God is trying to shake up? Could it be that the self is feeling challenged in an uncomfortable way? Could it be that it really is a form of self-worship?

I leave it to you to answer those questions for yourself...but perhaps it is enlightening to watch a kid's anticipation of their birthday. What's the focus? They're too honest to put a facade on it yet. How can we expect them to understand death to self when we set them up for self-worship year after year?

Just an
</idle musing>


David Reimer said...

Thanks for this non-celebratory post. I'm not far behind you!

Btw - meet Eric.. You have some things in common...


jps said...

Thanks for the link! Interesting thoughts that he shares.