As occasions for celebration of recovery go, birthdays aren’t bad.
I used to have this subtle feeling that mentioning my birthday was akin to seeking attention. So I wouldn’t mention it. Then I realized that this was really just akin to worrying about what others would think of me.
So today, when a chance to glorify God through a birthday came up, I decided I would take it.
So there it is. I turn 35 on Thursday.
Is this, like, the part where where “no longer a kid” actually starts? Anyone? Bueller? Frye?
Anyway, it is the tendency of
advancing increasing age to look forward and worry over the narrowing gap. Diminishing opportunities, declining vigor, regrets over goals not yet achieved, etc. I, in particular, am reminded today that my mission on earth – to lift up the name of Jesus to others – is not indefinite. I have a limited span to get this done. (Yes, I know, I’ve still got plenty of time. Though I did find out this summer that my knees are going to be requiring help from my leg muscles and will no longer hold out on their own.)
But this time I found myself looking to the past.
This season, I’ve found catharsis in a particular worship song, one you’ve probably heard of: Never Once by Matt Redman.
Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with usKneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in usScars and struggles on the way
And nothing has highlighted the difference more than going back to work at the pizza delivery place (my second job). My current stint there is actually my third, following the ones in 2006-2007 and 2009-2010.
In those days, as I drove around bearing cheese and gluten to the community, I was dealing with a low-level depression – one so close to “normal” that I never spotted it for what it was. A tight knot of anxiety in my chest was the norm. My pastor called it a “black cloud”. The consequences of my family’s collapse and the resulting moves had taken a toll. I lacked the (passable) people skills I have now, so there were years of social rejection and severe insecurity to deal with. I was touchy, defensive, withdrawn.
Fast forward to just a couple years ago:
The gripping knot and black cloud were gone. I hadn’t really even noticed the knot leaving over the years. I was just sitting behind the wheel comparing those days to these and realized that things had just…cleared. Like a deep, heavy congestion finally lifting. A slashing fear dulled and muted.
I could credit several strategies God has used. There was his faithfulness in my career. Getting older brings with it a level of emotional settling; that certainly helped. He’s helped me finally find “my people” (those people read these words and groan “oh no, we’re “his people”?). Some success (or at least not-abject-failure) in youth and worship ministry have come by his grace, giving me something to be grateful for. Years of focused, concentrated prayer driving the enemy back, reclaiming territory, teaching me to pray my way back into joy.
He cleaned up my theology some. I’d learned quite well the lesson that God does not deliver us from every harsh, unfair trial, and that he is perfectly holy and well-reasoned in choosing not to do so. Yet Satan was taking that theology of suffering and twisting it. He was prompting me to expect disaster at any moment and in everything I did, because “God has allowed suffering before, he can do so again, and the fact that you dread it just shows how much you need it”.
A piece of truth harnessed in service of simple fear. Anxiety doesn’t really do the condition justice. I didn’t fear bad things might come; I was absolutely certain they would. No doubt in my mind. And I lived with that all the time.
Like a millennial confronted with a tangled iPod cord, God unraveled the knot. He came through on an immense number of things. He provided. He brought blessings. He averted. He didn’t have to, but he did. He hasn’t averted everything, nor has he answered every prayer. But I no longer live with a breath-stealing dread of the coming day.
Because the best thing he brought me was himself. A closer knowledge of him, his ironclad peace, his love in the darkest times. I cannot overstate what a treasure this is. It sounds like a consolation prize, a second-rate offering behind just fixing the hard things. It’s not. Living without his love was the hard thing. Nothing is good without that.
This may not encourage the young people this blog is meant to target, but honestly, passed time is a huge ally in learning of God’s faithfulness. You see him come through.
For that reason, I will be grateful for this birthday.
Thanks for tuning in today. If you think this post might be of value to someone, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!