I did not look forward to my birthday. Actually, I dreaded it.
It was a routine, mundane morning. My coworker had bought a cake and a card, but it was for our colleague who was moving. Secretly, I was relieved. (I don’t usually like being the center of attention.) But that didn’t last long.
“Each person around the table has to describe Soapie using one encouraging word.” My friend recited the rules of the game over a planned-at-the-last-minute dinner. We always play this game during birthdays with the church fam, but this was the first time they were playing the game on my behalf.
Stupendously serving. Observant. Hospitable. Lanky. Agile, because she gets Around the city Amazingly without a car. ^_^). “not a Hulk.” As my friends shared their words to describe me, we roared in laughter.
After enjoying our juicy kalbi (Korean beef short ribs), we finished with a mango mousse cake. The top layer of the cake slid off the cake completely; it looked a disaster. But on our plates, it didn’t matter. We savored each bite.
“Thanks for being born,” one of my friends smiled, resting his napkin on the table. He was always sarcastic, about 95% of the time.
For once, he was sincere. After hearing that, and all the words of affirmation from my church fam…
I had never felt so full, with gratitude.
~ ~ ~
A few weeks ago I bumped into an old friend. “Heeeyyy! How are you? How is fatherhood?” I asked.
He and his wife had just had a baby, but I hadn’t seen them since. He glowed. “It’s good…. and the baby is good…”
“And your wife? Did she have a smooth delivery? Was she okay?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t know how she did it. She was screaming in pain, yelling, shouting. And all the while, as she was trying to deliver our son, I saw her but I kept thinking, ‘so this is what my mother endured for me. All this pain, she went through, for me.” Wearing a somber expression, he shook his head in sadness and disbelief. As though for the first time, he finally understood the sacrifice mothers make for their children.
~ ~ ~
Back home, I reflected upon the evening with my husband.”I don’t know why birthdays are such a big deal,” I started. “Rather than throwing a party for me, they should be throwing a party for my mom.” (In my mind, I was relating to my friend’s recent fatherhood revelation). Mak is the one who brought me into the world. I should be calling my parents and saying, ‘thanks Mak, thanks Ba,‘ because without them, I wouldn’t have been born.”
“True,” he replied. Then he added, “However…. who do you really thank then? You parents were supposed to die [during the genocide] so many different times, but they survived. It’s by the grace of God that they are here today…. If it weren’t for God….”
Indeed. My story does not begin with my birthday. Nor does it begin with my parents. Or the flight of refugees. Or the attack of a country on its own people.
Nope, it is far grander than I can imagine. It all begins with God. He was so gracious, to grant a sinner like me, the most valuable gift of all, to know Him. I could list a million things I am thankful for, on this most recent birthday. For my family, friends, patients, colleagues, church, community…
But all the things in world, celebrations, flowers, food, and even my loved ones will eventually fade.
May God’s grace be sufficient for me.