Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Dead Man Walking
Birthday: noun; the anniversary of the day on which a person was born, typically treated as an occasion for celebration and the giving of gifts - Oxford Dictionary. Or, if you think about it, the day you are born, your birthday, is also the start of your journey to death. As on death row, dead man walking is your status.
I find the idea of celebrating your own birthday a bit egocentric. It is a day when people congratulate you for being alive and give you presents. It's not like the achievement of being alive, let alone being born, is yours to claim. Maybe such an achievement should be credited to your parents. But then, on the other hand, not even they can truly claim to be the giver of life, only the conduit. Celebrating a birthday seems pointless and morbid - it's just one step closer to death.
I was twenty-six years old yesterday. The day before my birthday, I was taken down to theatre to have a picc line put into my arm so they would be able to give me the medicine I need without a cannula. The staff down there said to me, "Oh, it's your birthday soon, happy birthday for tomorrow". I smiled politely and thanked them while in my head all I could think was I have cancer for the second time in three years, I have infective endocarditis, I'm in hospital over my birthday and I'm not even allowed out of my room. What exactly is there to be happy about.
But what exactly is there to be happy about? Maybe that is the point. Maybe the point of birthdays is to be thankful. Thankful, not for what you've done, but for the life you have been given. I find it hard sometimes to be thankful that I'm alive and the phrase "cursed is the day that I was born" springs to mind. But the gift of being alive and having the opportunity to have a relationship with God is a priceless gift regardless of the circumstances that occur in this life.
Why are we only thankful in general, and to God in particular, when life is going well? Why are we bitter and resentful to God when life is going pear shaped? I think the fact that we exhibit this fickle behaviour says something about how we view God and His purpose. It says that God, to us, is like a vending machine. We put our "money" in, be it living a good morale life, saying our routine prayers, going to church; and then we expect our "chocolate bar" out. But if our chocolate bar gets stuck in the machine or we get something we didn't want instead, we get angry and we might even try to put more money in or even rock the machine in order to force its' hand.
God is not a vending machine. Nor does He yield to the consumer culture we have come to demand. He is the Creator, He is King and has dominion over the Heavens and the earth. He is Lord over all. Being thankful to God for the life on this earth given to us is not about being thankful for the good gifts we have, although that is part of it, but it is about being thankful to Him for who He is and the fact that we have the chance to know Him personally. No matter how many times you curse the day you were born, knowing God and suffering in this life is by far the better deal compared to not coming into existence. Why? It is because, if you so choose, suffering is finite and a life with God is infinite. Sadly, the converse is also true; life with God can be finite and suffering can be infinite.
When you decide that you want to know God personally, you get a second birthday, you are born again. Our first birthday is when we are born physically, but our body will eventually perish and cease to exist. Our second birthday concerns our soul. Our soul is the part of us that in this life communicates with God; unlike our body, our soul is eternal, it will never cease to exist. If we make the choice, in this life, to know God, then our soul is born into relationship with God. Our soul exists regardless if we make this choice or not, the difference is whether your soul is in relationship with God or not.
So why should I celebrate my birthday? Apart from God, there is no point; I am just a Dead Man Walking. With God, I am a Dead Man Walking Into Life.