A most astonishing fact was recently drawn to my attention: birthdays are good for your health. Studies have shown that people who have the most birthdays live the longest!
As I approach yet another birthday, this truth is strangely comforting.
Last year at this time, I celebrated a landmark decade birthday – #60. I’m over that hill now, but I’m not over the hill, although some (who will go unnamed) would beg to differ!
My dad, at the distinguished age of 94, often proclaims that there’s nothing golden about the golden years. “Whatever you do, don’t get old!”, he advises me not infrequently. My response: ” Dad, you know what the alternative is!”
As a child, I always found my birthday exciting. I remember counting down the days. I was filled with such eager anticipation that I thought I would burst like an over-inflated balloon! My mom and dad always made sure our special celebrations included cards and gifts, homemade layer cake wearing flaming candles, parties hopping with friends and family. And I’ve never grown weary of the heartfelt “Happy Birthday to You” refrain, sung in person if possible, but if not, then over the phone when I was older and the miles conspired to keep us apart.
Then somehow I got to an age when I began to feel vaguely sad, almost depressed, as my birthday rolled around again and again like an aggravating and persistent visitor. The years were flipping by with the regularity of the minutes clocked by my bedside radio.
Some people, in an effort to to jog my joy, have asked me, if it were possible, would I go back and relive a certain time in my life? Maybe, if you’re as old as me, you’ve been tickled with the same feather. My answer, perhaps disappointingly, is a decided no.
No, I don’t have any desire to go back, even though with each passing year I do look a little different in the mirror. My body parts complain a tad more with each turn of the calendar. My pace of life is decidedly slower than it used to be, but I like to think of myself as taking more time to “smell the roses”. My mind isn’t quite as sharp as it once was. I do occasionally have … what do you call them … hmmm … oh yes …”senior moments”.
My spirit, however, is alive and young – perhaps more so than it’s ever been. There’s a flame of hope that burns. I’m enjoying the life I have right now. I’m blessed.
The years behind are littered with mistakes, actions I’m ashamed of, words I wish I could take back, attitudes I should’ve corrected sooner. If it were even possible to turn back the clock, there are so many painful lessons I’d have to learn all over again – who wants to go there? And besides, my God has redeemed it all. He’s even covered all my future bumbles. When my heart makes a habit of turning to Him in humility and trust, He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
My past also shines with memorable moments of joy and events that still make me laugh out loud. There are achievements to be proud of and acts of kindness forgotten by all except the One who sees in secret. There are cherished memories in my bank account that I don’t ever want to change or exchange.
So I’ve determined that I’ll focus on the present. In this life, today is really all I have anyway. It will never come again. It’s a treasure to be savored in the moment, unpredictable and undeserved, a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.
With every passing year, my reasons to give thanks pile up: family, friends, a hope and a future, opportunities to influence another’s life, the constant companionship of One who has been with me since my beginning. In retrospect, I see countless times when I’ve been carried, protected, provided for, and blessed by the Lord. Looking in the rear view mirror, as I continue to motor along, I stand in awe at the sight of how God has guided and His angels have accompanied me on my journey.
Birthdays now remind me of God’s love and faithfulness. As the years pass, I know God does not forget me. Though outwardly my body inevitably ages and health will eventually fail, inwardly by God’s Holy Spirit I’m being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16). Each birthday brings me closer to being in the eternal presence of the Lord Jesus. What could be better than that?
So I’ve decided to live with a grateful heart and welcome each birthday as it comes.
I’m so glad that birthdays are good for my health!