As most people who know me know, I’m really very spontaneous as long as nothing upsets my routine. My birthday is no exception to the no disruption in my routine rule. Thursday morning invariably finds my husband and me cleaning our house, and me shopping while he operates the vacuum cleaner, which must exceed OSHA noise level standards by at least 100 dB. Having already cleaned the bathrooms, done the laundry, dusted objects, and consolidated the trash so I could take it out later and clean the kitchen trash can, I set out for Wal-Mart. It struck me as an odd place to be on the occasion of my birthday, but it was actually quite pleasant.
I withstood the notion of going to Albertsons for cooked tail-on shrimp, because the cool, overcast day made the idea of chicken soup seem more agreeable. I didn’t need festive foods to force myself to celebrate a birthday. I felt happy, contemplating the multitude of blessings God’s good hand has brought since my last birthday: our move to the place we found so much to our liking while on our honeymoon; my congenial correspondence with Heidi’s stuffed dog, Hormisdas; and the fulfillment of many other happy aspirations. And if this were not enough, cleaning my house and shopping at Wal-Mart beats the birthday parties of the Bible hands down.
The Bible chronicles two birthday parties, neither of which is awfully good press for the concept of birthday parties. Pharoah celebrated his by hanging his baker; and Herod, having made an idiotically indulgent promise to a stripper (okay, there may be a little eisegesis there), highlighted his birthday fête with the decapitation of John the Baptist.
Remembering the birthday parties of my childhood doesn’t dredge up very pleasant memories either. I typically got sick eating too many hard-frosting flowers and bluebirds, the birthday child’s portion of the birthday cake. And I wasn’t exactly a Pin the Tail on the Donkey ace. As soon as I was blindfolded and spun around, I could wander off anywhere. I think it was my fifth birthday, and the donkey was on the front door, a few feet in front of me. Someone spun me around, and I wandered off into the den, which was at the other end of the house, and triumphantly pinned my paper donkey tail to my mother’s desk. When I removed my blindfold, wondering what sort of delightful prize I had won, everyone burst into uproarious laughter. I smiled and smiled and accepted the booby prize, a little metal car that would probably now bring the price of a tank of gas on eBay. Not everyone is good at everything.
Friend Laurie just e-mailed a greeting that included, “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord and he never leads us astray or on a blind path.” A great reminder, and maybe somewhat vindicating as well. I think the chiefest way to go astray is to celebrate ourselves. I celebrate Laurie, who has lived for decades with the most compromised health of anyone I know, while ministering to many. And I celebrate my husband and our church, and all the friends, and the animals, living and stuffed, who sustain my cheer and perspective. My doctor just gave me a good report, saying I am good for another 30,000 miles, until my next tune-up. He has no idea how many alignments I need and receive between tune-ups.
And my age is as nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. — Psalm 39:5