I recently celebrated my 29th birthday. I am not one to make a big deal out of it and this year was no exception. Typically on my birthdays, I get a few friends together. It’s a selfish way for me to feel appreciated by those who are close to my heart. It’s also an excuse just to get some people together, people whom I have been meaning to see.
About a week before my birthday, I sent out an invitation to approximately 20 friends. I didn’t just invite anyone, but those who meant a lot to me. A lot of people responded and I was feeling great about the celebration. When the day finally rolled around, I was surprisingly excited to seeing everyone. I had scheduled for my friends to gather early at my house and for us to walk to a local bar together. Around 7 pm, I got a number of text messages from well wishers saying that they are on their way and that they are excited to see me shortly. By 8 pm, no one had shown up. By 9 pm, I paced anxiously back and forth in my living room, wondering where everyone was. By 9:30 pm, I sat on my couch alone, sipping on a glass of expensive whiskey I had prepared for the pre-party. By 10 pm, I figure I should message a few close friends to see where they were. By 10:30, I realized that no one was coming.
I was alone. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have anyone that felt my birthday was important enough to make an effort for. I started making excuses for everyone. “Oh he is usually a bit late with these things. Oh I definitely know she said she is already on her way.” The reality is, no one came.
I was so hurt.
Now, I am not one of those people that need constant attention. If anything, I prefer to be alone. However, on my birthday, is it asking too much to want to celebrate it with people that mean the world to me? In my lonely desperation, I had nowhere to turn but to say a prayer to God. It started off as a sob story: me complaining to God about how unmeaningful my life is. I asked God why, in the past 2 years, he has moved all of my best friends out of San Francisco. I whined at God about how He allowed a recent breakup to happen with a girl I loved so dearly and have her now be in the arms of another person. I became angry at God because after all I’ve done for the kingdom of God and for His people, he would just leave me feeling so alone! Why, why, why….
And then I realized something. Why am I complaining about all these things that are beyond my control when all I ever needed was God? For it is written that God satisfies all of our needs and more. God will never forsake me. I am his son, his beloved. He knows the depth of my pain but he is allowing me to suffer for a reason. So I took a moment and thought about all that’s happened in the past year. I came to the realization that despite all the work I’ve done this year “for God,” I had actually fallen away from God and I lacked faith. I was hiding behind all the ministries I was conducting versus living the life He has intended for me to live. I skipped church often because I grew prideful in my own wisdom. I stopped going to small group because it became too tedious to attend. I was a terrible leader in my relationship and I led it into deep sin. I was becoming a regular sports gambler, a potty mouth, an adulterer: the man that I was, prior to knowing Christ.
Through my loneliness, God revealed my sins. I was so ashamed. Who had I become…?
With those heavy thoughts, I put on my jacket and I walked out into the rain, toward the bar I had asked people to meet me at. The entire walk, I prayed. I prayed for forgiveness, for mercy, for love, and just for a few friends to show up. When I got to the bar, I walked inside to find not one familiar face. I got a drink and I sat down in a corner by myself. Something changed inside of me. I no longer felt bitter about the people that didn’t show up to my party. I felt comfort in knowing that my prayers were heard. I realized that I had the chance at that very moment to turn my life around and begin chasing after God with great passion and urgency. I found renewed strength in knowing that He is with me.
A few of my friends did show up. I was thrilled and I had a great night! Thank you for making this birthday of mine truly memorable. More memorable, however, was the pain I felt in my heart. It is a reminder that if I don’t chase after Christ, only death and disappointment awaits me. For it is written in Peter 1, Chapter 4: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourself with the same attitude, because he who suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” So I pray, not for the end of my suffering, but that I persevere and become more Christ-like. I do not want to live the way I did before. And I ask anyone that read this post to keep me accountable because I am a servant of this city.
I woke up this morning on my actual birthday feeling the best I’ve had in months. Through this painful trial, I realized that my worth is not defined by my friends showing up to a party or if I am loved by someone, it’s defined in Christ only. I am awesome in my God’s eyes and it’s about time I start feeling the same about myself. And God has a funny way of delivering that message. It only took two complete strangers on an airplane and a great friend from my past to help breath wisdom into my life (Thank you, so much). In my scripture reading I came across this verse and I changed it a bit to serve as encouragement to all of the readers:
Love is patient. Be patient with yourself
Love is kind. Be kind to yourself
It does not envy. Don’t envy others about yourself.
It does not boast. Don’t boast to others about yourself
It is not proud. Don’t be prideful about yourself
It does not dishonor others. Be honorable
It is not self-seeking. Don’t be selfish
It is not easily angered. Don’t be mad at yourself
It keeps no record of wrongs. Forgive yourself, move on and don’t look back.
During your trial, hold onto to God. He will deliver everything you are seeking and more. However, he might not deliver it in the packaging you had in mind. If you would like to send me encouragement or if you like to share your own pain and struggles, I can be reached at [email protected]
Thank you Lord for the most wonderful birthday.