Another Trip Around The Sun

OK, so this is the point where I traditionally write about how my birthday is a reminder that I’m so blessed and yadda yadda.

Eh, not this year. Sorry.

Last year, my birthday started with my best friend sending me a text message at four minutes after midnight. “I pray it is your best year ever. May the Lord open your eyes to the things of him you have never seen. May you come to know him in ways you never thought possible.”

Now, inasmuch as I’d had a huge crush on said best friend for months, I had some thoughts on what said best friend might do to bring that first part about. In retrospect, it appears I may have been wrong. And I do miss my friend.

But the last two parts of that prayer really spoke to me. That had very much been the story of the preceding year of my life. And it had come in the form of tremendous blessings, so much so that I actually felt guilty about them. God had showered me with His grace; I had never felt like He had done more or that I had been more undeserving. And through all of that, I had come to know Him in a way I hadn’t before.

This past year, on the other hand, not so much.

I really felt at the begining of 2008 that God had told me it was going to be a good year. And almost the entire arc of the year was, from the way it started until the moment I started 2009, which was probably pretty close to the happiest I’ve been in life.

I really can’t say the same about 2009. Yeah, the year seemed to start pretty well, but ultimately that served only to counterpoint the heartache and pain that was to come, to make the hurt possible. You can’t have loss without something to lose, after all. And there are few things that would have hurt more to lose.

So, no, I can’t say that the prayer that my 34th year would be my best ever came true. Quite the opposite, really. Which is a damn shame, because it didn’t have to be that way. Things could have been so different. Alas.

BUT — Here’s the thing: There was more to that prayer than the first part. There were two other parts, “May the Lord open your eyes to the things of him you have never seen. May you come to know him in ways you never thought possible.”

Be careful what you pray for, huh? Because both of those definitely came true. I have come to know Him in ways that I wouldn’t have thought possible, ways I would almost certainly have tried to avoid.

But having our eyes opened to God, coming to know Him, is not always about Him doing the things we want in our lives, is it?

That was a lesson I learned early in 2008, that contributed to it being such a great year. The first month of January was incredible, with God giving me so much. The second month was the opposite, with difficulties, and some of the things that had been given the month before being taken away. But, through that, I chose to believe it didn’t matter. I adopted the idea that “all is blessing” — it doesn’t matter what things look like to us, it only matters what they look like to Him.

I can’t honestly say that I’ve really lived the last year of my life under the idea that “all is blessing.”

I can say, however, that I’m better for it. I made mistakes, I strayed from the path, I gave up things of myself I’ll never get back and I will carry scars from that forever. But, in general, I’m a better person today than I was a year ago today. God has given me the opportunity to learn things about myself that weren’t necessarily pleasant to discover, and He gave me the opportunity to work on those. And even my worst critic will admit that I’ve grown and changed over the past year.

Now, it’s another year later. I’m another year older. Another year of my life is gone forever.

And a new one is beginning.

And that’s the important thing — someone had to remind me earlier today that we can’t focus on the past, we can’t change the past, we can only move forward with the future. And if God has been doing all of this work in me over the past year, then He’s not done with me yet.

When I look back at everything that’s happened over the past year, it’s hard not to despair. It’s just too much. Too much for one year; too much to be jammed into that small a package. Throw in the year before that, since my birthday 2007, and, wow … Yeah, it’s just overwhelming.

But those years are done, and my 35th is laid out before me. And the picture of my 34th changes when I focus not on what happened in that year, but what I come out of that year with — sure, some scars, and, sure, some wounds that are still healing. But I come out of it with a better and stronger version of who I am. I come out of it with a better and stronger understanding of who He is. I come out of it with a new church, and a better and stronger understanding of what church is, and the role it can play in my life. I come out of it with great new friends, who have made the journey better. I come out of it with a new nephew, and I do enjoy being Uncle David. I come out of it with — have I mentioned this — a published book, which is kind of cool. I come out of it enjoying hiking and able to tolerate country music. I come out of it with a particular belief in David Hitt that I’ve never had before. I come out of it with reasons to believe there’s hope the future will be better.

And those are just the new things over the past year; they don’t count the myriad other blessings I went into my 34th year with — AMAZING friends, a wonderful family, a great job and awesome co-workers, incredible opportunities, etc.

And, even amongst the hurt of the past year, you know — There were some good times. There are some memories I will treasure forever, even some of the ones tinged with pain. Some because I enjoyed them, and they were special to me; some because I am better for them.

I spent the last two evenings with people I hadn’t even met a year ago … or really, just a few months ago. And God used both of those to bless me in awesome ways as the birthday season began — to show me how He loves me, that He’s there for me, that He isn’t done with me.

OK, so this is the point where I traditionally write about how my birthday is a reminder that I’m so blessed and yadda yadda.

And, you know, I am.