I turned 28 on Sunday.
28 is a lot of things: one of the precious few ages I’ll ever be that end in my favorite number, a mere two years hopskipjump from a new decade, and, most significantly, the age my mother was when she gave birth to me. As of Sunday, August 15th, I’ve known my parents for exactly half of their lives. Which is, well, interesting. I don’t really know what I feel about that.
But I do know how I felt on Sunday: loved. I am blessed and surrounded by amazing people who went above and beyond to make my day a special one. Favorite showed up at the crack of dawn to wake me and make a breakfast of all my favorite things. He came with beautiful flowers and seemingly bottomless pockets full of cards from just about everyone I know. My birthday team assembled and transcribed messages from all of my nearest and dearest and armed Favorite with them to deliver to me nearly every fifteen minutes throughout the day. 41 cards in all. Wow.
Here’s what I love about God – He’s the master of completing the cycle. There I was, birthday joy incarnate, reading hundreds of thoughtful, flattering, beautiful words from people I love and admire, walking completely unarmed into an Imago service that ended in an elder’s public confession of an affair. One brave, well-loved, and surrounded man stood trembling before our congregation and whispered the story of his failure. And I wept, and fought to keep myself in my seat. Because I have stood in rooms of people who suddenly saw me as a different person than they had only moments before. Because I know what it feels like to fail hugely, publicly, painfully, and irrevocably. And because I know that God sees him with exactly the same eyes, the same love, with which He still sees me – the same love that has been mine to bask in from the moment of my birth and will remain mine, will remain his, through a thousand other failures and let downs and public humiliations.
I hold these 41 cards in my hands with their beautiful words and I love them, I cherish them, I count them treasure, but I know the traits attributed to me on them aren’t really mine. I am all things destructive, I am stubborn and prideful, and I could never account on my own for the hurt that I’ve caused. These things you see in me, friends whom I love, they are only the product of the grace I’ve been afforded. They are redemption. They are not mine to claim, but I’m grateful any time I can be a vessel for them. I am none of these words on my own, and all of them through Christ who lives in me. What a privilege to have them laid out before me, to be able to read forgiveness on a notecard, to remember that but for the grace of God go I, to remember that in all things He wants to bless me and use me.
My amazing Portland family, you gathered at Favorite’s in the afternoon and jumped out and yelled surprise, despite my best efforts to melt you. You had a beautiful cake and beautiful faces and I’m not sure I’ve ever been grateful for or in love with any time in my life more than this one, so obviously surrounded by love. The already amazing family I was blessed with has grown to include all of you, and I’m so very glad. You are my evidence of God’s ability and desire to rebuild. Yours are the words He uses to love me. You are my very best birthday present.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.