Once upon a time a baby was born to a young couple in western Nebraska...and that baby was me. And 'once upon a time' was, in fact, exactly 35 years ago.
Birthdays are a funny thing. So much hoopla is made on what is simply the anniversary of the day you emerged from your mother's uterus. "Congratulations, Person, let us reward you for the pain & agony you put that woman through!"
In seriousness though, we know that it isn't the act of being born that is being celebrated but the very existence of a new life that previously wasn't and now is affecting so many other lives simply by his/her presence in this world. We so often hear the birth of a child described as "a miracle." It is only one of the most commonplace experiences on earth and yet despite the plebeian nature of the thing, there is no better word to apply to that moment when that which was previously two unrelated minute pieces of two completely different people emerges as a fully developed young life with his/her own look, personality and temperament.
I imagine that the concept of the "birth day" celebration was started by a mother. No one quite appreciates the day someone was born more than the one in whom that person once lived and who felt the "miracle" of that life in the most tangible of ways. To celebrate ones own day of introduction seems a bit vainglorious! "Hey, All of You Out There! I began to grace this world with my presence exactly 35 years ago today! Make with the merriment, will you? For I have enriched your lives by my very birth!" Yeah...perhaps there are a few out there that feel that way...but I'm still putting my money on a mother.
That would also explain why birthdays are more elaborately celebrated in childhood. I know, as a mother of young children myself, that my children's birthdays hold far more meaning to me than my own. And I want to cherish those memories and make the most of these fleeting moments now when I can still see glimpses of those new wrinkled baby faces that I met in their first hours in their now fresh childish faces that keep maturing before my very eyes. Every year--with balloons and cake and gifts and special meals--I am remembering that day (however many years ago) that I held them in my arms for the first time and I am beaming with pride at how their birth changed the course of history...at least for me. The child doesn't remember that day. All she knows is that today is important. That it's all about her. She is special. She is loved. And she is worth celebrating.
At least that is how I felt as a kid and how I strive to make my kids feel.
As I approach (what I hope is at least) the midpoint of my life, the less significant each passing year becomes. The years get shorter and making it around the sun another time doesn't feel like much. Autonomy means that instead of big elaborate parties with colored streamers and a group of friends, you get a card in the mail that you read in between errands. The ironic thing is that the smaller the outward celebration...the larger your impact on the world has become (hopefully in a positive way) and the more there is about your existence that is worth celebrating. At least that's what we should all be striving for.
I may not be that important in the scheme of history. My name may not be remembered more than a generation after my death. And I am more than okay with that. My ambition is not one of grandeur. I just want to be a positive influence to those around me. I want each year that I get to see another February 3rd come and go, to be another year in which I was the best version of me that I can be. I want to spend each day I get to breathe in this ol' planet's atmosphere, living--really living.
There are no balloons up for me today. There are no streamers. There will be no slumber parties or piles of presents. And I'll be making my own cake. But today I will celebrate my life and thank Jesus for letting me be a part of His plan.