You know you’re growing up when birthdays start to seem more like times for self-reflection than like times for presents and cake.
My birthday this year feels quiet, almost like another ordinary day. But flipping through the diary I’ve kept over the last year makes me realize that a lot of things have changed or are in the process of changing. Do I feel more mature than last year? I can’t honestly say I do. But I don’t know that’s entirely a bad thing. I think it’s possible for maturity to sneak up on you and quietly become a part of your life without you ever realizing it.
I have done things that I had never done before, and they felt natural and unforced. I have stood as a groomsmen in a friend’s wedding. I voted in an election. I gave my Christian testimony for the first time. I got hired for a real job, gained new skills, and then been laid off.
But there’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes, as a certain friend of mine has said, and this year also saw me holding onto a sense of youth. I have stayed up talking with friends deep into the night. I was a supervillain in an amateur movie. I dressed up as Santa Claus for a Christmas party.
This year has been about the best of both worlds.
Last year I gave myself three goals to have accomplished by my next birthday.
I want to have a novel written. Or at least mostly written. And strictly speaking I did not accomplish that. But I did do other things, most notably help a friend write a non-fiction book he’s wanted to write for a long time. I interviewed him, typed out lots of transcripts, made rough sketches, and ultimately assembled a first draft for him to work on and revise (something he’s still working on). And of course most recently I’ve finally done something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and launched Marvellous Adventure. It even has an official Facebook page and it doesn’t get much more “real” than that.
I want to learn how to love unconditionally. Does anyone really learn this completely? No, I haven’t found a relationship yet, but I didn’t actually expect to. I just wanted to be ready. But is anyone ever really ready? I managed to surprise myself this year, and in the process I learned that surprises can be pleasant and uncertainty can still lead to courage. Now it’s just a matter of letting that sink in.
I want to know my God more intimately than I do now. And yes, I think I do. But I’m not sure I can really articulate how or why or what that means.
And I suppose the same goals hold true for this next year. They are never things that really finish, are they? I want continued growth, though it comes with pain. I want even more significant accomplishment, though it comes by struggle.
A life lived in abundance is going to have both the powerfully good and the immensely sad. Days will go up and down as the seasons of life change. Sometimes life will seem normal and you can take it for granted. Sometimes the profundity of existence will suddenly bow you down and weigh heavily. But days when I know I have lived life, days that I know will live long in my memory, get a special mark in my diary. Different cultures and diarists have used various symbols, like white stones or red letters. I use a blue cross. It is the colour of the water of life and the shape reminds me of the One who gives it to me. I mark today with a blue cross.
“I came that they may have life,” said Jesus, “and have it abundantly.” I think I can say with complete honesty that abundant life has been given to me. And I hope it keeps on coming.