As a child, my birthdays were a big deal. I can remember lamenting the fact that birthdays only came once a year. It and Christmas were the two events that marked my year. My parents (being of the over-generous, prone to spoiling stock) had me thoroughly convinced I was, in fact, the center of the universe. Life revolved around me, and it was these two events that proved such.
One birthday in elementary school, my parents rented out the skating rink in town (for those of you who reside in Lawrenceburg, you will have to accept that this was prior to it becoming the town’s seediest hang out for troubled teens) and invited my entire school. There were kids there I did not know.
Later, it was all the rave to have small, exclusive parties with only a select few people who were privileged to be invited. During that phase of life, my parents acquired some small cabins at a resort near Lawrenceburg where I and my chosen “elite group” of little friends could stay up all night and watch horror movies we were too young to see. This is when I learned to roll yards.
High school came and went, bringing with it those milestone birthdays of 16 and 18. I got a car, and I got to vote.
It was not until college that I finally discovered my parents had not been completely honest with me. In reality, the world did not revolve around me. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I coped, and in the process turned 21.
Ah 21, that greatest of milestone birthdays which means absolutely nothing if you are a good Baptist. And I was, so it came and went with no pomp or circumstance.
After college a funny thing happened, birthdays really started meaning less and less. What once was the anticipated event of the year, slowly became another day on the calendar. The only difference was having to remember the number after the 2 in my age was now one higher. The closest I got to a milestone birthday was turning 25 and getting a lower car insurance rate.
And they got faster. It seemed every year my birthday came sooner than the year before.
Today, I turned 29. The only thing good about 29 is the fact that it is not 30. My life is far from where I thought it would be at 29. However, I do not want this to sound like a pessimistic post, regretting the inevitable passing of time in my life. For indeed, it is far from that.
Instead, I want it to be a celebration of a life unexpected.
From the earliest birthdays I can remember, I had it all planned out. As a little kid, I ran around telling my parents what I was going to be when I grew up, and it was always something with a six figure income. I went through school and finished well. I had plans, and if they had went the way I expected, I would probably be rich by now.
Instead, I live in Africa.
Somewhere along the way, my plans got messed up. Somewhere between there and here, I took a different road. And, without quoting a cheesy Robert Frost poem, will say that it has changed everything.
I know where it happened.
It was at the point where I realized my life did not belong to me. It was in that moment that I saw something bigger than my own plans. My life was no longer my own; it had been bought with a price. And suddenly, my plans meant precisely zero.
God had prepared me for that moment when he taught me in college that the universe did not revolve around me. But in that moment, I learned that neither did my own life.
It was his, and it was he who would decide my paths. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
People talk a lot about being “his workmanship,” but rarely do we hear the last part of this verse, the part that tells us why. We were created for good works. They were works prepared beforehand (notice the beforehand) so that we could walk in them. Read that again.
I may not have a six figure income, but my life is indeed rich, because God has revealed to me why I was created.
I do not know exactly what the future holds down this path that he has prepared, but I would not trade that for all the money in the world.