Reflections On A Birthday

From time to time, all of us have significant days – days when we realize that things have changed, that our lives are going to be different. Days when we pause to take stock of our lives, and perhaps think about some things that we are too busy to consider at other times. I’m talking about times such as, the birth of a baby. The death of a loved one. A wedding. A graduation. A child leaving home.

I had a birthday the other day.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, birthdays don’t necessarily rank up there with some of the other life events listed above, but I can’t seem to stop thinking about this one. Partly because of the age I have now reached: 58.

(Insert your favorite joke about getting old here. I’ll wait.)

It’s not that I’m feeling older, because I really don’t. But my grandpa Archie died of a heart attack when he was 56. His father had died at 56, and apparently, several other men in the McMillan family also died at about the same age, mostly from heart disease. I grew up very aware that men on that side of the family didn’t get out of their 50s.

So my first reflection after this birthday is, I’m thankful for good doctors and better medical care. I say this knowing that there are still far too many men in our culture who die of heart attacks in their 50s, or even younger. But I’m thankful for effective medicines to manage diabetes, and better understanding of diet, and all of those blessings. And I’ll tell you, it sometimes feels pretty sad to me to think about all that I still want to do with my life, and to think about my Pa-Pa dying at 56, and how young that seems now, and that I’ve already lived longer than he did, and how much he missed.

And not that this has anything to do with that, but here’s another thing: I’m blessed to be part of a church fellowship that is outward-focused. I have seen too many churches whose primary emphasis is nothing but member-care, and all the programs and activities are designed to pamper and tend to the folks on the inside. Beltway may not be perfect, but I appreciate their focus on missions and growing the Kingdom and reaching out to others. They prove it by the high percentage of their budget that they spend on missions, by their emphasis of projects in service to others – even by hanging on the walls the flags of the nations where we have partners at work.

At a time in my life where it’s easy to settle in, to pull back and become more inwardly-focused, I’m glad to be part of a group that is still going out.

By the same token, I’m honored to work for an organization that has a vision for community. I get to meet neighbors, to build relationships with them, and to help host events in our home that facilitate those things. Jesus said nothing was more important than loving God and loving neighbors, and I am so blessed to get to focus on those things 24/7.

One of the things I like best about my birthday is that it comes in my favorite month. I don’t love October only because of my birthday – that’s just one of many reasons. From cooler weather to changing leaves and so much more, autumn is my favorite time of year.

October means that the holidays are approaching. I’m not trying to rush the season – it still annoys me that Walmart is already playing “Jingle Bells” – but there’s no denying that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming. Another year will soon be over. And in my head, somehow to me, at least, my birthday is kind of like the start of the holiday season.

The year is not over, but if there are things you need to get done before the end of the year, you need to be doing them. Which brings me to my final reflection –

I’m reminded of the need to make every day count. I’m 58. I hope to have a long time yet, but there is one undeniable fact: I’m one day closer to dying than I was yesterday. And so are you. Paul said we should “Redeem the time, for the days are evil.” In “Dead Poet’s Society,” Robin Williams reminded us of the old Roman adage – “Carpe Diem.” Seize the day. Make every moment count.

God bless us all for a good year.