Reflections on birthdays

By Andrea Harris

Our family has just finished another birthday season. Most think we've completed spring, but it’s actually birthday season at our house. My children were born in April, May, and June, and even my daughter-in-law conforms to the season with an April birthday. My husband is the only one who gets his own special season with a birthday in February. He’s always been a bit of a nonconformist!

I, too, have a May birthday, and the most recent one was one of those supposedly significant ones that ends with a zero. I don’t feel as old as my age indicates, though as the years go on I realize how very relative that can be. What is “old”?  Certainly not what I am yet! My Dad turned 90 on his last birthday and I think it’s easy to qualify that as old. But to a 6-year-old student on my piano bench, my wrinkled hands and the shade of my hair indicate advanced age. Yep, I look like a grandma even if that title doesn’t yet apply to me.

The world we live in tells me that I should do everything in my power to resist aging. I should alter the color of my hair, eliminate the wrinkles in my skin, stay current with fashion trends, take supplements to maintain youthful energy. Our world wants us to try very hard to avoid the truth that these bodies don’t last forever, that death is inevitable. But denial seems rather foolish.

So, what is a wise response?

When I turned 30, my boss hung a shiny black and silver “Over the Hill” sign over my desk. It seemed ridiculous at the time, and even more so now. Several hills have been traversed since that time and yet I certainly don’t feel like it’s all downhill from here forward. I want to finish strong, serving till I’m really incapable physically or mentally. I want to be found faithful. I think that would be a good way to age well and wisely.

As the number of birthdays I’ve celebrated has increased, I find I can relate to the psalmist David more and more when he writes about being old. In Psalm 37:23-25 he writes:

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” (NASB)

I find it interesting that David assumes we will fall. It’s not if he falls, but when he falls! Yes, this life will include missteps, but if we choose to accept God’s offer, He will hold our hand. And that sounds comforting and secure. My mom, 88, has a fear of falling, heightened by scoliosis and arthritis. It’s a legitimate fear, but thankfully it hasn’t caused her to stop moving. With the assistance of a walker, she moves quickly down the halls of their senior living apartment building. She has something to lean on and so moves with much more confidence. As believers, we should be confident in the One on whom we can lean and Who has promised to hold our hand. The limitations of fear should not be part of our spiritual experience!

David gives testimony to the faithfulness of God. This is where advanced age should be to our benefit. The longer I walk this road with Jesus, I see more and more examples of His faithfulness in my own life and in the lives of others. I need to remember those experiences, especially when faced with uncertainty, and be willing to share them with my fellow believers. That’s a pretty powerful way to encourage one another!

These truths make any number of birthdays easier to handle. If I depend on God, I can be confident and at peace because my future is controlled by Him. And since I’ve been around the block a few times, I can tell you – He is trustworthy! So why not trust Him for all our future birthdays and all the days in between?