In the past, birthday mornings have been typically cheerful occasions, but not this twenty-forth morning. I rose early to prepare for work and despaired over my situation. Twenty four years, one less from twenty five, and what have I done with myself? I know men in my position who are working on their second degree, or married, or who are off having adventures around the world. And here I was, no close to my ambitions than I was a year ago, still in my parents home, working a position that betrays my years poured into the company - in short, a mess of a man. In one year I will be 25 years old. If I were to then find myself in the same position, how could I face myself? I shuddered to think of where that despair might lead me.
The morning sun and Paul Simon's Graceland in my headphones cheered me up by the time I arrived at work, where the hugs and well-wishes of my many friends greeted me. But it was mid-morning text from my pastor, Gavin, who forced a change of perspective and attitude on me. "Grace to you as you celebrate another year of God's mercies to you."
Mercies to you. Now that's a different way of looking at things. With such perspective, my success is not measured by how well I've done with myself, but by how gracious my Creator has been to me. What have I to complain about, really? What do I actually deserve? In such light, these years have been mercies indeed.
He continued. "It's been wonderful to watch how the Lord has grown you in these past few years. Keep on." With this attitude, I'm not looking at what I've done well and what I've achieved, but what the Lord has done in me. This is progress of a different kind, a supernatural work that I can not account for on my own. How could I give up? How could I discard His handiwork in me?
I reflected on the days that made up this last year. There have been few notable events to mark it, and, unlike the year before, less dark clouds of troubled turmoil. I got sick for several months. I wrote some things I was proud of. I was successful in a somewhat unchallenging work environment. I happily spent several months on my own. I planned an exciting trip to Portland and complete a graduate level college course. In short, the had the typical share of pleasures, events, disappointments, heartache, and ups and downs.
That evening, my family and a handful of excellent friends gathered on our beautiful acreage. We ate dozens of chicken kebabs, baskets of fresh pita breads, bowls of fruit and salad, about two chocolate cakes, and Chemex after Chemex of coffee, all prepared by my sisters while I was at work. We laughed, partly because of the sharp wits on display in that room, but mostly in delight over these remarkable people and the joy they brought. My parents told stories of their courtship while training teens on tall ships, stories that looked back and remembered with gratefulness.
We then pulled into the music room and gathered around the grand piano. Violins, clarinets, and guitars were produced, a couple iPads served as our hymnals, and for about an hour we sang some of my favourite songs: "Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder," Let All Mortal Flesh Be Silent," "Erie Canal" (the Bruce Springsteen song, not a hymn), "Jesus I My Cross Have Taken," "Oh Perfect Love Come Near to Me," and "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand".
Farewells were said. Hugs were exchanged. Guests departed to their corners of the city and our family headed into our rooms and to bed. And so I am content. Not because things couldn't be better. Not the because the frustration will end. Not because things have changed. But because I can trust the One who is guiding me, and I can see his hand at work.
"Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine."