Aging is one of those things people dread most about life. When we think of aging, we naturally picture progressively wrinkling skin, sagging parts, greying hair, and aching joints. Beyond the physical though is also the spiritual side of aging—the feeling of weariness, regrets over unfulfilled dreams and the sense that time has moved forward. With each birthday, we age. It’s a bittersweet occasion because we celebrate but also desire desperately to put on the breaks of aging. If only 30 didn’t come so quickly, because we haven’t accomplished our career objectives yet. If only 40 could wait until the next year, because we haven’t gotten married or had children yet. If only 45 could hold off, because we’re still finding ourselves. If only 50 could slow its arrival, because there are things we’d like to do over. But we can’t stop it. We can only try to find meaning in each birthday that arrives.
Birthdays are independent of us from the day we were born so I believe the meaning of birthdays has to be independent of us. What does that mean? It means we can’t just simply contrive our own meanings for our birthdays and feel that will substantially satisfy the very core of our being. Being born happened without our choosing and every year a birthday arrives without our choosing. The meaning behind our birthdays has to come from outside of us. I know there’s a lot of talk about us making our own destinies, and I hold to the importance of the choices we make. But I think we’re more like characters actively journeying in a story that is being written by a master author. The book doesn’t choose to be written anymore than we chose to be born and have birthdays. Each birthday is a chapter. The arrival of a birthday is the turning of a chapter. Where does the meaning for the birthdays come from then? It comes from the author. This could be a frightening notion, feeling as though you are ultimately at the hands of a maker. Or it could be a wondrous reality if you knew the maker to be wise, benevolent and incredibly gifted at what he does.
But unlike a regular book, we do possess a will where we can choose to subscribe to the author’s masterwork or attempt to find our own meaning outside of the author. So here’s where choice does matter. The most basic choice we have is to discover the story that God desires to write of our lives or attempt to entirely make our own story. While will gives us the power of choice, I believe wisdom must accompany will. Otherwise, we will simply make poor choices. Wisdom would tell me that while it was not my will to be born and have birthdays, it’s also true then that the meaning of my birthdays—the ultimately meaning of my story—is also not originating from my will but from God, the author. Each birthday reminds me about the intricate balance between making and discovering in life. If I try to make what I’m supposed to discover, I would be lost. But if I discover that which is made in me, then I receive something wonderful that each birthday ushers to me. Then of course, the ultimate birthday is that one we never get to—at least not here on this earth. That birthday is important because it tells us how the story ends. And as we know, how a story ends of is everything.