You Say It’s Your Birthday

Funny thing before we delve into this week’s blog – first, I’m late again. Thankfully, I might be the only one keeping track. Second – I’m early. Yep, this is the blog that I had in mind for next week – when my daughter, Megan, turns 21. Due to a twisted turn of events – namely that I am wholly unable to keep proper track of time these days – I present next week’s blog this week:

Do you remember what you did for your 21st birthday? Or your 18th? 10th? 30? 50? – pick your milestone poison. You likely have fond memories of that day, unless you landed in jail, in which case I hope enough time has passed that you can look back and laugh.

What if something worse (much worse) than jail happened on your birthday?  My mother’s oldest brother, Mike, died of a heart attack – on his daughter’s birthday. Yes, there isn’t much worse that can happen on your birthday than for your dad to die of a heart attack.  It’s awfully hard after that to look forward to another birthday much less ever to look upon that particular day with anything other than heartbreak. Or is there?

At my uncle’s funeral, the priest painted a glorious picture of heaven and our heavenly reunion with God and loved ones. He turned the an awful event on its head. He reminded us that my cousin now share’s her earthly birthday with my uncle’s heavenly birthday – his real  birthday. 

Yes, we get it backwards. We celebrate births and struggle with deaths. And while some of you might think that recalling that a loved one is in the arms of Jesus isn’t much consolation for missing them now – I beg to differ. While I in no way celebrate losing Brooke, my anxiety over the loss has been calmed more than once by acknowledging that she is in paradise – that she no longer lives in the tensions of this earthly existence.

Life in this earthly valley is a constant tug-o-war between dark and light, sorrow and joy, life and death, earthly and heavenly. Here in the valley, death strives to overshadow the light. We become so blinded by sorrow and earthly that we can’t focus on heavenly Light.

Later this next week, my daughter, Megan, will turn the Big 2-1. It’s such an exciting milestone – no more fake ids! Official adulthood in all of its radiant glory dropped at one’s feet.

Megan’s birthday (like so many other events) encapsulates perfectly life’s “tug-o-war.” The immense joy of watching one daughter grow into a beautiful young adult and the shattering sorrow of never seeing her sister reach adulthood yank at my heart. The abyss of Brooke’s absence at our family celebrations pushes against the bliss of her memory present at every gathering.

How do we “break” these tensions? How do we celebrate earthly milestones when things don’t always feel “happy”?

We turn earthly on its head. We claim a heavenly hope.

We must grow to discern the difference between what is true and what is merely a shadow of the truth. 

What’s true? There’s really only one truth that matters – God sent His one and only Son, Jesus, into a broken world to bear the unbearable so that we may live with God in eternal glory.  Jesus’ sacrifice for us represents the ultimate tension between sorrow and joy and abyss and bliss. Jesus’ life provides the ultimate example of how to “break” the tension.

When Jesus felt the wrench of dark, sorrow, and death, He turned to His heavenly Father. When we turn to our heavenly Father, dark, sorrow, and death lose their grip. Earthly tensions will never disappear, but we “break” the tension when we trust God to carry us through.

In days of distress,  we pray – even if the words come only in the form of tears. In the midst of mourning, we sing – even if it’s a bit off-key. In the grips of grief, we dance – even if it’s with a limp. 

Tears, off-key, and limping, all come naturally for me. Praying, singing, and dancing while being tugged in too many directions take more effort.   Our heavenly hope is found in God’s promise that He has a spot reserved for us on that day when there will be no more tears, no more off-key, and no more limping. 

My dearest, Megan –Welcome to adulthood. God’s truth is planted in your heart and it shines through in your best qualities – your kindness and your senses of justice and mercy.  This world is brighter and better because you are you. I pray that the light you bring to this world only grows brighter as you continue to grow.

Soak up the sun. Don’t settle for bad chocolate, bad wine, or bad cheese. Some days are meant to be sugar-free; others are meant to be carefree. And remember – Be safe. Make good choices. Have fun. Happy 21st Birthday! I love you! – Mom

Heavenly Father, hear our prayers even when we whisper to You in our tears. Help us to sing your praise – even when we are off-key. Help us to dance – even when we can barely limp. When the sorrow looms over us, remind us of a day yet to come when there will be only joy. When hollowness threatens to swallow us, let us be filled with the comfort of your truth – that one day we will be rejoined with You and all whom we love. Remind us that promise of heavenly joy is cause to celebrate even in valleys shadowed by death.  Lord, shine your Light deep into our valleys casting heavenly hope across our horizons. Through your son, Jesus – Amen!

SDG

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