This is how I spent my 66th birthday. In the morning I gave a talk to a group of teachers in Pakistan that focused on the condescending love of Christ. In the afternoon I drafted the previous eCommentary, essentially stating that it was difficult to have one narrative that did justice to all the issues surrounding the recent news of the sexual misconduct of Ravi Zacharias. In the evening I gave a talk on spiritual friendship to the oldest AOG church in Singapore. Yes, it was a very full birthday. Few of my birthdays are this full. But it did hit me that my dad and many of his generation retired at 55. A full birthday, but grateful for the opportunities to do meaningful work.
In between work I peeked at my phone to see the birthday greetings coming in. This year I was especially touched that many accompanied their wishes on Facebook with photographs of times when our lives had intersected. Each picture provoked a memory and brought a smile. I later found out that it was a feature that Facebook had introduced. Don’t care. I loved seeing those pictures, anyway. The wishes came in for a few days after the actual day. This gave me great joy as I thought of the lives I had been allowed to journey with and the lives I have been allowed to impact. I really believe in the life-giving power of friendship, but in the actual practice of friendship, I know I often over-promise and under-deliver. Forgive me my friends.
And then there was the celebration with family. The family here in Singapore gave me a birthday dinner on Monday. I liked the place they chose and the food was great. I looked around the table and realised again how special were all these people with whom I am family. Again, I felt very blessed. I missed family in Melbourne and Toronto. Sometimes absence underlines the importance of our ties. Again I treasured the messages from Australia and Canada even as I wondered when I would see the family in those places again. (One son even recorded a song he sang for me.) Ah, these dear folks deserve a better husband/father/father-in-law/ grandpa. Again I was overwhelmed with a sense of grace received.
This is a season of life when I had to face many deaths. Last year and this year I have lost two teachers/mentors, a few friends, including a close one, and a cousin. Lord why have you taken them? Why do you continue to give me the gift of life? I do not know. I have learnt to trust His perfect, loving will. But I am very grateful. If there are two things that make life meaningful, they are love and purpose and I have both in spades. And though I do not know what the years ahead will hold, I am grateful that I walk with a Lord who has held my hand and will continue to do so.
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
(Psalm 37:23–26 NIV)
Thank you Lord.
PS. Many thanks to all who sent me birthday greetings. I read and treasure all of them though I will be unable to personally respond to each one.