Earthly, physical birthdays haven’t meant much to me since I was a kid. Once upon a year, my own birthday may lead to a pensive mood; and/or I’ll have an experience that makes it especially meaningful, but over the long haul, I’m not interested in all the hoopla around birthdays. If you think about it, you may be baffled by the banter, too:
“Oh, your birthday is in June? Wow. Both my dad’s and my little brother’s are in June, and my best friend’s sister, too!”
“Oh, cool. My mom’s birthday is on the 23rd, and my sister’s is on the 19th, and mine on the 13th—all odd-numbered days!”
“Oh, wow. My dad’s and brother’s birthdays are on even-numbered days in odd-numbered months! And last year, my odd friends even took me out to a restaurant for my birthday.”
“Oh, that’s so great. You know what? Every summer, right after my dog’s birthday, which was 2 days after July 4th, we would all go over to my aunt’s house for her birthday, and then two weeks later, it was my mom’s birthday, and they would come to our house.”
Seriously? Don’t we have better things to do with our time and thought patterns? I mean, when I get a birthday card in the mail from my insurance agent or my dentist, I think, “Why do they bother, and why do they spend money on this?” But attention-grubbing merchants aren’t that big a deal. Where I think we need more of an adjustment is when we know the people better.
Far above birthdays, it seems to me that honor and attention should be showered on people we love on other occasions:
- Why not honor wedding anniversaries above physical birthdays? These days are times to affirm marriages that last, and the honorees will actually have had something to do with the reason you’re honoring them! (With physical birthdays, the honoree had no say in the matter that led to the birth.)
- Mother’s Day and Father’s Day ought to be higher on the list than birthdays, too. These are days to acknowledge the importance of parenting, and to draw closer ties between parent and child.
- And, even more important, how about spiritual birthdays? Even if your experience and current understanding instructs you to mark a spiritual birthday at a point that I wouldn’t find as mark-able, I’d rather see you getting some special attention on the anniversary of the day you made some major decision or took a significant step for Jesus than on the anniversary of your physical birth.
“[Show] honor to whom honor [is due]” (Romans 13:17). If you tell me “happy birthday,” it’s not like I’m going to spit or criticize you. I may be a little restrained and “polite.” I may even respond with joy, depending on the year. But honor is not particularly due to me or anyone else who’s merely existed for a certain number of years since birth. Some kind of recognition seems in order, though, to those who have been married for 10 or 25 or 50 years, and to those who have parented, and to mark times that we took steps to become full-fledged disciples of our Lord Jesus.