Essay / Misc.

Birthdays and Eternal Life

That we all have to age and grow older is a fact of life, especially in this post-Edenic world. My own birthdays do not cause me much consternation, probably because I do little to acknowledge my own birthday. Sure, I will accept gifts from family and friends (who wouldn’t?) and I will even indulge by eating too much of the wonderful cake that my wife will bake; but other than that, I don’t spend much time each October 6 thinking about the past year or the year ahead. I simply acknowledge the fact that I am now older. Yet, what really makes me feel like Father Time is visiting me in a most obvious way is when one of my sons celebrates a birthday. Yesterday it was my oldest son’s birthday — Brendan is now six.

There are certainly days when I feel like I have been a father for six years, even days when I feel like I have been a father most of my life! Nevertheless, those days are rare. With a newly crowned six year old and a two-year-old running around my house, most days I feel young. My boys want me to get on the floor and wrestle or lift them up and swing them around. Now, other than the occasional back pain that this causes, I really enjoy this time with my kids since it reminds me that I am healthy enough to do these things now because one day (hopefully in the far distant future) I will not have the strength to play with my sons (or grandkids) in this way. For now, I enjoy my relative youthfulness and lift my boys up in the air until my back nearly breaks.

Yet, as we have all heard, we begin dying the day we are born. Now, I do not want to sound like a pessimist nor do I want to be thought of as a fatalist, but it is true, biologically we do begin to die the day we are born. This would certainly cause me to really whoop it up on my birthday if this were all there was to look forward to, that is, death. But it’s not! Christians live with the hope of eternal life, that this life is only a prelude to everlasting life with God and all the company of heaven. Now if I really want to live in this reality, how should I think about birthdays — my own or my kids? Should I advise Brendan to “really live it up” because one day he is going to die? Should I make a bigger deal out of my own birthday, surely I only have about 40-50 more? Of course not. In fact, it’s the reality of eternal life that allows me to remain so aloof about my own birthday. My body may die, but my soul will live forever with God in an eternal birthday (of sorts).

So, my advice to Brendan: enjoy this day, son, you only turn six once. But don’t worry, there is an eternity of birthdays ahead, and the party is only going to get better!

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