My son is turning 4 years-old. Sometimes I can’t really believe it. Caleb is not a baby anymore, he’s a little boy – he is our little man, and it’s his birthday. The build up to this day has been significant… more than significant. In the universe that is our home in Polk County, Florida the build up has been monumental.
Ever since marrying my wife, Jules has taught me the finer points of appreciating birthdays. I never really did before. It’s not that I had anything against birthdays, but they didn’t mean much to me. Growing up, I don’t remember getting all that excited over my own – not because my parents weren’t loving or proud, because they were – birthdays just weren’t that significant in my view. (Christmas is another matter entirely).
Jules is a master at it. For her birthdays, I have always tried to go all out… exceed her expectations. She builds up my birthday in a way that even I get excited about it. But for our kids… the limitations are only set by her imagination (which is significant). From invitations, to food, to decorations, to experiences, Jules tries to make our children feel as special as they are to us… She wants them to see the depth of our love for their lives. That’s her motivation.
That’s when it hit me: this act – the act of celebrating a birthday – is not just fun and games, it can be spiritually significant.
This week I have been struck by some of the heartbreaking news coming out of places like Iraq. The stories of violence and torture against even children is more than I can bear to comprehend. In the same vein, I am consistently saddened with how callous our culture can be when it comes to dealing with “unwanted pregnancies.” We are a world that devalues life. We are a world that treats life as a pawn in a political battle or nuisance that must be dealt with.
But life is precious. Life is beautiful.
In the time of the Israelites, as they were preparing to enter Canaan, God gave the people set of laws to govern their activities and among them is this,
You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. ~ Leviticus 18:21
Part of worshipping this Canaanite god, Molech, was the act of sacrificing children. It was detestable, and in fact, later leaders of Israel and Judah were condemned for such practices. (see 2 Kings 16 and Jeremiah 7 as just two examples). In Genesis, the general devaluing of human life and the perpetuation of murderous violence was one of the determining indictments against humanity before the flood. The Psalmist poetically talks about God’s providential creative power when he writes:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. ~ Psalm 139:13-16
In the New Testament, we are called God’s workmanship or masterpiece, created with a purpose for good. God is called the “Giver of life,” and Jesus came so that we might have a full, abundant and eternal life in him.
Now, there are a lot of applications for these verses, but on a simple level – and a most basic and, some may call, elementary level here’s the charge: celebrate the day of someone’s birth because it is the day that the world was privileged to see the beauty of God’s workmanship and the experience of that masterpiece breathing the first breath of life. Celebrating birthdays is not important because it can be fun or can bring families together. Though those are good things. Birthdays should not be occasions where we see if we can outdo our friends in extravagance. Celebrating birthdays is important because life is precious. Celebrating birthdays is important because life is beautiful.
Celebrating birthdays is important because it gives us an opportunity to say to people (as my father-in-law used to say on birthdays), “I’m glad YOU were born.” Life matters – let’s not be afraid to defend it and celebrate it!
~ This post dedicated to my wife, Julie (the chief celebrator), my son, Caleb (the birthday boy), and my father-in-law, Pastor Tom – whose birthday we would have celebrated Monday – I’m glad you ALL were born! ~