Today is my birthday. This has always been a double edged sword for me. I remember a few birthday parties and the cool fact that my aunt (on my mom’s side), my grand aunt (on my dad’s side), and I all share the same date of birth (although different years). On the other hand, I have had some pretty miserable birthdays as well – like the year my mom and sister got into a car accident, luckily they were not injured, but my birthday was forgotten until about 9:00 that night. I guess I had it built up in my head that it would always be an amazing day and that really was very rarely the case – or at least it didn’t measure up to what I thought it should be. Another year older, hopefully a little bit wiser, I have learned that life isn’t about the “amazing days” but rather the amazing moments that make our time on earth. So rather than bore you with details of lots of random things, I would like to share a story of a different type of birthday.
When I was in elementary school, junior high, and high school, I attended a United Methodist Church camp called Alive that is a lot of fun and allows kids to learn more about God and what it means to have a personal relationship with Him. This particular year I had borrowed my mom’s camera to take to camp and it broke. I was devastated and terrified to tell my mom when I got home. I was sitting in the chapel with the weight of the world on my pre-teen shoulders. I remember sitting in the fourth row of pews next to the wall of windows that overlooked the lake. My head and shoulders were bowed under the pressure I was feeling internally. My mom was going to kill me. I was a failure. No one could trust me. No one liked me. I was not worthy of anything. In that moment, as tears were falling slowly down my cheeks, I heard a still, small voice saying, “I love you. You are mine. I love you. You are worthy. I love you. Put your trust in Me.”
It took awhile for the words to sink in, but slowly I started to listen to them. Sitting alone in that chapel, I knew for the first time deep in my heart, soul, and mind that I would never be alone. I knew that even if my mom was mad at me, I was forgiven. Even as my mom and dad love me, my Father loves me more. As the words were internalized, I felt the pressure lifting from my chest and my shoulders. I lifted my head and my back straightened. I looked at the cross in window and knew that Christ had died for me. He died to offer me salvation and grace. Freely given. A gift all I had to do was accept. I had to do nothing more. No expectations. No debt or formula for me to repay – no way that I ever could.
This gift of salvation that I have accepted does not require me to do anything. The amazing thing about it though is that this gift has changed my heart. I want to do something. I want to make a difference for others. Does my salvation hinge upon anything I could do? No! That being said, I feel that it is still my duty to share my faith, not just in words, but in action, in love, and in respect for all of God’s children. We many not agree on everything, in fact many people do not even agree that God exists, but that is one of the great things about God – He has offered salvation to ALL. He loves EVERYONE – not just those that sit in fancy clothes in the pew on the Sabbath, not just the missionary in the field, not just the preacher in the pulpit. He loves the single parent that is struggling to make ends meet. He loves the homosexual that is excluded or tortured for a way of life. He loves the hypocrite that has hurt those around them. He loves the addict that is trying to dull their pain and find their next fix. He loves the child that was aborted and the child that is being abused. He loves the hardened criminals. He loves the lost. He loves the broken. He loves the strong. He loves the weak. He loves the sinner. He loves the saint. He may not always like what we do, what we say, or what we think, but He loves who we are and who He has made us to be. He died for every one of us, whether you like it or not.
To this day, my favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall run and no grow weary; walk and faint.” When I remember that in trusting God, my strength is renewed. I no longer need to feel unworthy, unloved, uncared for, downtrodden, or alone. I am none of these things and neither are you. This verse also reminds me to never stop moving, growing, or loving, God is not renewing my strength to sit and do nothing, He is renewing me to make a difference in the world around me: to run short sprints, to walk long roads, to not give up on the marathon of life.
Blessings to you today and every day. I pray that you will have your strength renewed and know that God loves you, not because of what you have or have not done, not because you are good or bad. He loves you because you are His child. You were made for a wonderful and majestic purpose.