Let’s briefly recap Sunday.
I woke up on time, fully rested, and hung out with Jesus for a while, one on one. I spent the rest of the morning with my vibrant, joyful church, The Cause KC. Intending to meet some friends for lunch, I went to Jack Stack Barbecue in the Crossroads, where I randomly met Jay Leno.
To gearheads like me, Jay is not a late night talk show host. He’s not a comedian. He’s the curator of one of the world’s greatest car collections. Jay drives them all on rotation and hosts a Youtube show to educate the masses on their intricacies. It’s far more interesting than the Leno-era Tonight Show ever was.
I then sat down to lunch with some old friends from out of town. Though it had been a sliver over a decade since I’d last seen them, we picked up right where we left off. I got to meet their three tiny daughters, all between the ages of 1 and 5, though it was impossible to decide which was cutest.
I spent the next few hours on the couch, Sunday Central, the altar of rest, marathoning Netflix, before I was lured to a surprise party in honor of my birthday. And I was genuinely surprised, too. Root beer floats in hand, some great friends and I sat on more couches before a giant screen and an even bigger sound system and watched Mad Max: Fury Road, newly cemented as one of my favorite action movies of all time.
Later, as I lay in bed with the pre-autumn night coming in through the window, I thanked God for the gift of the day, His custom-made birthday present for me.
As we reach a certain age, and this age can greatly differ per person, we begin to feel a pressure, a temptation, to begrudge the birthday. Instead of celebrating, we mark it as the closing of another empty box. Another year of untapped potential. We lament what we didn’t accomplish compared to what we did, dwarfing the latter until it seems a meager pile of scraps and rinds, a rickety shed ready to blow over in the next storm. The next birthday is worse, and we continue along this vector until the concept of aging as a joy becomes laughable and we do our best to keep our birthdays secret.
But a year is a gift. If we didn’t believe this, we wouldn’t talk our friends down from suicide, fight cancer, or council against abortions.
And the best gifts are not merely to be used, but enjoyed. If you’ve somehow forgotten, this is why an 8-year-old never asks for clothes for Christmas. Clothes are to be used. Toys are to be enjoyed.
So my challenge to myself this birthday isn’t to just count my accomplishments up like miles of pavement laid on a road stretching over the horizon, but to count my joys and multiply my gratefulness. I want to appreciate the friendships I made and the ones I nurtured. The cars I photographed and drove, the movies I saw, the journeys I took, the Sunday afternoons on the couch.
This, I think, is the gift of age. Youth has its unchallenged optimism and energy. But age has a library of joys to remember.