So today is my birthday. I’m thankful to be a part of a family that makes birthdays extra special times, so they possess a great beauty. Each year, I learn more and more: about myself, about my family, about my people whom I serve as their lead pastor, and about the world in which we live. God provides the necessary wisdom to approach each day in the various realms He’s chosen me to occupy–along with the necessary wisdom to recognize what I need to learn. As someone once said, Wisdom is not only knowing what you know, but also knowing what you do not know.
I’ve titled this abbreviated blog post The Beauty and Barbarity of Birthdays. God has granted me another year of life–that’s the beauty. Even though I’m a sinner, by His grace He gives another year, day, hour, and second to press on for His glory and hopefully the good of my family, church, and community.
Where does this barbarity come in? Partially because of the fact that in 2014, I’ve participated in 10 funerals. Eight who were connections to my church, one who was connected to my previous church, and one who was like a brother to me. At the last funeral I officiated (this past Monday) I found myself getting emotional while leading the final hymn of Amazing Grace. The barbarity of death itself grips and grieves so many people, that the accumulation of those deaths began to take its toll during this stanza:
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The barbarity of it all is that, as Psalm 116 notes,
The snares of death encompass me;
The pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul” (Psalm 116:3-4).
To sound a bit macabre, each birthday is a day to celebrate (the beauty) but it also marks a day closer to your death (the barbarity). The snares of death encompass all of us.
It brings the reality of meeting our Lord Jesus all the closer.
It brings the reality of the brevity of our days in reaching a lost world for Christ.
It brings the joy of another day, another year of Christ’s righteousness being worked out in us.
It brings the anticipation of what Paul wrote to the Romans:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. . . . We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. . . . But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18, 23-24a, 25b).
I won’t always have a birthday to celebrate. The barbarity of sin that leads to death does not make that a reality.
But I will always have a birthday–the day that God rescued me from my sin, something worked from the before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-4). And thus, the beauty of being born and sustained by God’s grace physically, and the beauty of being justified, sanctified, and glorified spiritually.
Even the barbarity amplifies the beauty!