Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Twenty-Six

At what point do I officially become too old to get those candy decorations for my birthday cake? I'm 26 today, and still eagerly applying them to the top of the cake. Steve thinks they're disgusting; I think they're a wonderful tradition from my childhood. So I just eat his :)

I've been doing a lot of introspection today, about the huge expectations I place on my birthday and how the day itself typically brings a little letdown. I'm not sure why birthdays are such a big deal to me, but for as long as I can remember, I've had this big buildup of anticipation leading up to March 18, only to be disappointed most years when my birthday doesn't quite live up to my soaring hopes. It's not that the people closest to me don't do a great job of showing their love; they often do. It's mostly just a case of unrealistic expectations...or, looking at it more deeply, idolatry.

I think this is the first year since I started this blog that I'm posting about my birthday on the actual day. In previous years, I've purposely avoided doing so, I guess as some sort of manipulative "test" to see who "really cared" about me. Because birthdays are so important to me, I've always made a point of remembering my friends' birthdays. I'm big on sending real cards, or at least email wishes, to let people know that I remember their birthdays. (I'm human, so I do still forget occasionally--but I try my best.)

So it follows, naturally, that I expect all those people to whom I've sent cards throughout the year to remember me, too. And in my twisted brain, wishing me a happy birthday because you saw it on my blog wasn't good enough; a "real" friend would have remembered all on her own. Of course, some of them may be terrible with dates; others might remember but just don't do the card thing. Birthdays might not be a big deal to some of them, and some might simply forget--which doesn't make them lesser friends by any means. But try telling that to the self-absorbed birthday girl.

So as I turn 26, I find myself finally asking: why the self-absorption? What is this intense desire to be remembered?

Today it has occurred to me that this birthday disappointment is God's "severe mercy." Each year, my merciful Father tries to teach me that I cannot pin my hope on people. This is not a pessimistic message; it's a call to anchor my heart to the Rock. He persists, however painful the lesson may be, because it is a vitally important one: only He can satisfy. So when I depend on humans or circumstances to bring me joy, to satisfy the desires of my heart, I will be left empty and still wanting every time.

And there's another lesson for my prideful heart, I think: The inevitable disappointment each March signals to my narcissistic self that a world which revolves around me, even for one day, is a world that's far too small--a world far inferior to the one I was created for. So in His severe mercy, my Savior topples this god of self I want to worship, this broken cistern, and redirects my wandering heart to the spring of living water. And though it isn't the celebration my sinful heart craves, I think this clarity of understanding is the most loving birthday present after all.

3 comments:

Zoanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dancebythelight said...

Happy Birthday, you youngin'! I'm turning 30 in May! It's funny, I'm all about making big deals on b-days, but don't care at all if no one makes a big deal about mine. I very good at indulging myself and not feeling guilty about it. So if no one remembers, I'll just go buy myself gifts! Ha ha!

Anyway, hope yours was good!

Jules said...

I forgot to tell you how strange it is to me that you turned 26. I thought "she can't be 26...I'm 26!" Apparently I stopped counting my own birthdays a few years ago.