Monday, March 14, 2016

"Unless you turn and become like children..."

Hypothetically speaking, of course, is it wrong for a grown man to celebrate his birthday with child-like glee?  Even as the numbers get bigger and rounder?

Sure, it may sound distasteful.  But is it wrong?!  Or, to put it more positively, under what circumstances might it be acceptable? 

Before I offer a brief apologia in defense of what may seem defenseless, allow me to acknowledge that this path is risky.  No one wants to see those who should be "grown up" acting in a childish fashion, or reverting to pathetic quasi-adolescent behavior.  There are certainly enough wild egotists running rampant these days; no need to encourage them.

But for those who might look to expand their birthday festivities into a week or octave--or perhaps a fabulous fortnight--here are four rationales or motivations for actually enjoying one's birthday as the years fly by:
  • Don't dig me, dig Him(!): It would be better for needy middle-aged folk to avoid marking their birthdays all together if it devolves into a sad celebration of self.  But what if the aging and graying among us are actually grateful to the One Who Is, for sharing the gift of Existence itself?  Wouldn't it be it a good and holy thing to revel in Life and to give glory to the Giver?

  • Gratitude with an Attitude: Sure, humility is still one of the fundamental Christian virtues, so the ageing and graying who want to light up the birthday cake better beware. However, don't children specialize in humility?  Isn't it possible to be so filled with thanksgiving for all that one has been given that a certain over-exuberance wells up from one's heart? (Without a fifteen yard penalty for excessive celebration, of course...)
  • Counting both the Years and the Blessings: I'm with all those cultured despisers of grown men celebrating birthdays, if it looks like the almost-over-the-hill crowd trying too hard to act 20 again. But what if, in an effort to be completely consistent with the universal principles of birthday celebration, the hypothetical middle-aged gent of whom we speak promises to rejoice at getting older?  Like children who can't wait to be just one year older, isn't it fair to consider the whole aging thing a blessing?
  • "My joy in you, and our joy complete": Brace yourself because this one is Jesus' idea (!):  Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, after all, and it is not wise to argue against it.  Children don't turn joy on and off at will; they just embrace it, embody it, and run with it.  So, if there is somebody out there who reads the headline, "This guy is solid old," and sees it as his personal tag line, shouldn't such joy be a sign that there might be more going on than meets the eye?

Should you dare to become a promoter of "Birthday-Paloozas," please strive to do so with only the purest of intentions--turning and becoming like children.  Seek to heed our Lord's counter-cultural caution.  And, please, remember to invite me to the party :)