For many of you who follow me online you might know that I made a big deal out of my birthday last year. I was turning 33. I called it my Jesus year for I’d reached the age in which Jesus was when he died. Big accomplishment for my geeky religious soul. Right? My sister even got me this t-shirt to mark the occasion.
Birthdays, in my opinion really aren’t that exciting after 30. You start to realize that you aren’t that young anymore (like you were at 23) and there’s so much you want to do (or haven’t done with your life) and time is ticking. Is there really anything good about turning a year older when you don’t get something cool out of it like renting a car for less or getting to drink?
So for me, naming my birthday last year was my way of trying to make it more fun.I didn’t go as far as to make a project out of it like this person did, but still it was something I thought about through 2013. It was bound to be a good year I thought or at least a real transformative one. Wasn’t that the case for Jesus? I joked with my friends that my year wouldn’t end in death.
But now it is over. I’m still alive. I made it to 34 last Friday.
So what I do I think about it all now? Was 33 really all that special?
Last year, I found myself jobless (at least in the traditional sense) for the first time in my adult life. I found myself spending time in a state where my husband and I had no friends. I found myself having to re-sort everything I thought I knew about life as entered what felt like an intense spiritual wilderness experience. I found myself with a large mass causing infection to my entire abdominal region requiring emergency surgery. I found myself on my back, forced to rest and heal for 2 months. Then, later I found myself re-emerging from these and other intense experiences with greater clarity and drive than I’ve had in years. I got glimmers of light in the darkness.
If I were to pick a theme text for 33 it would be this one from Philippians: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and share in the fellowship of his sufferings.” This is what a Jesus year is all about. It’s about pushing through. It’s about slowing down. It’s about seeing what in life matters. It’s about feeling your own pain and that of others too. It’s about walking through fire and coming out on the other side as something new. It’s about gifts that only suffering can bring.
And so this is all true: I’ve made new friends in unlikely places. I’ve been forced to open up myself up to new ways of seeing the world. I’ve found a centering place in the mystery of God. I’ve not crumbled completely pieces when I got the worst possible news as I was carried by love and hope.
What will 34 hold? I got several birthday cards this weekend wishing me the best year ever. Will it be such? Who really knows. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.”
All I know for sure is that I am grateful to have another year to learn and breathe and be in good health and to walk alongside companions on this journey who love me as much as I love them. 34: bring it on! (I always liked even numbers better anyway!)