Next week is my birthday – and I am looking forward to it. I love birthdays and the surprises that so often go with birthdays. I love the cards people send me – and even more I love the phone calls from my grandchildren. No doubt some would not class my birthday next week as ‘special’ – it does not, for instance, end with an ‘0’ – nonetheless for me it will be special. I love every excuse to pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate the gift of another year.
Birthdays are also an opportunity to reflect upon God’s goodness over the past twelve months. Certainly as I look back over this past year, there is so much for which I am grateful. True, there have been difficult times – but they have been far outweighed by the good times. In this past year I have been blessed with so much love and friendship. Although I long to see more of God’s Spirit at work in our church, nonetheless there is so much for which I thank God – I am amazingly privileged to be a pastor of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford. There have also been opportunities to travel – and not least to see the amazing way in which God is at work in China.
Some people find birthdays depressing – especially as they grow older. But what is old? As a young pastor I thought that forty was old, but now in my late 60s I regard forty as but the end of youth. I love the quotation – ‘old age is always ten years older than I am’.
As a pastor I know that old age can be cruel – especially when it involves the loss of health, friends, and even independence. In that sense I do not want to become old. But there is nothing wrong with growing older. For growing older is about growing – it is about growing in wisdom and understanding. As we grow, we hopefully learn more about ourselves and more about God; and as we learn, we hopefully change and become more like the people God intended us to be. Birthdays can therefore be an opportunity for taking stock – for reflecting on how much we have grown.
For some people birthdays are an occasion not just for taking stock, but for making resolutions, whether it be books to read, films to see, places to visit; or perhaps more substantial goals such as deciding to look for a new job, to take on a new role at church, or to embark on a new course. I confess that this has not been my custom – but on reflection, I think it is no bad idea.
Another way of taking stock and looking forward is to create a birthday time capsule. I came across this suggestion the other day. It involves writing a letter to oneself, answering a number of questions, and then sealing the letter in an envelope, with a view to opening it up at a much later date. Questions could include:
- Where am I now? What is the date and what is the weather like?
- What am I most worried about?
- What is one amazing thing I expect to do in the coming year?
- What is my favourite recent memory?
- What were my top three accomplishments last year?
- What made me laugh the hardest most recently?
- What are my goals for the coming year? For the next five years?
- What do I want to change in my life? How do I want to grow?
On reflection, that creating a birthday time capsule is not a bad suggestion. What do you think?