At the end of this week, I’ll be another year older. On St. Patrick’s Day of 2018, I’ll be 27 years old – to be exact.
I’ve scarcely met a person who didn’t care about birthdays (and I would still guess they were slightly fibbing if that was their answer). In my observation, you either love them or loathe them. Depending on where you are on the age spectrum, it’s usually a celebration of maturity or a close reminder of our brief time on Earth.
I met my now mother-in-law almost a decade ago, and since that first meeting I’ve adopted her attitude toward birthdays. She determined since she was 18 years old that as long as she could avoid it, she would never work on her birthday.
Instead, she would try every year to take that day off and spend it celebrating life. I understand this isn’t feasible for everyone, but considering I was 18 as well when she shared this practice, I assumed it would be as good of a time as any to also implement such an anticipated annual day-off.
So far since my adult years began I’ve been able to keep this promise to myself. Matt and I will usually spend the day or weekend creating a memory – going somewhere we haven’t been before or trying out a new activity.
No matter what the plans our though, one conversational topic always comes around either during the drive there or the journey home. We always end up playing this game we like to call “Remember When.”
The origin story of this game didn’t necessarily start on a birthday.
During a 20+ hour drive to Massachusetts in college, we tried to outdo one another in recapping shared memories simply out of sheer boredom.
Today though, it’s bi-annual tradition (on both his birthday and mine) to take a birds-eye view of the last year as a whole, from that day looking back on the past 365.
“Remember when I finished preaching early one Wednesday night, and right after I prayed the electricity went out in the church?”
“Remember when we surprised my mom on her birthday by flying in my grandparents?”
“Remember when we both were ordained at District Council?”
Though all our memories start out light-hearted, they always bring us back to the same conclusions of gratefulness and thankfulness by the time we park the car at home. Here’s how such a simple game became spiritual over time:
1. It gives us a scope to see God’s faithfulness.
Looking at the minute details from day-to-day, it can be very difficult to see the changes in your life for which you are believing. It can be strenuous to see God at work focusing at just a week span.
A year though? So much can happen in just 12 months.
Reflecting on those changes brings about a realization of how much He shifted both on the inside of us and our surroundings in such a short amount of time. We can all attest that a year drags when in the middle of it, but on the other side of a new year time seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.
I remember one year ago desiring to be a more confident leader. I remember the craving I had to no longer need the affirmation of others to move forward. I had dreams of finding a communication coach.
I had ambitions of taking more on in my role at the church. At the time, it all seemed so large. In just two weeks, I’ll play the game and again see how faithful the Lord has been to work out things inside of me and for my good – transformational change that means I’m not the same person as I was a year ago.
With each passing year comes an even greater assurance that if He did it this time, he’ll do it again in His perfect way for the coming year.
“For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” (Psalm 100:4)
2. It brings back the wonder of His great plan.
Birthdays can prove solemn as the years pass on. I’ve said it before. My husband has said it before. You’ve probably said it before.
“I imagined my life would be different at this age than it is right now.”
Sure, there can be disappointment in the journey when we’re not at a place in life that we thought we would hit by a certain age. Remembering the past year though can bring joyful reminders of any and all of the beneficial things abounding that you didn’t expect or plan out.
I’ll never forget the birthday when Matt and I could sit together and say we both worked full-time at the same church. We thought that would have been impossible. I’ll never forget the first birthday we had our loved pup, Louie. I’ll always remember Matt’s birthday following his last few days working at AT&T.
All of these events, both small and big, where unexpected. Sometimes our plans fail, but the Lord’s plans never do.
Psalm 103 reminds us that not only does God save us and redeem us – but He also fills our life with good things. Reflection brings this all around full circle. It shows us the things to be thankful for.
“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things…” (Psalm 103:3-5)
3. It brings perspective to our plans.
Now, assuming not all of our plans are faulted, the days can still seem to go on forever.
Even during our God-ordained pursuits for a degree, for a job or position, for a family – the culmination moment that all our plans, attentiveness and hard work fall into place may never seem to come.
Keep our contemplation within a span of a year though instead of the entirety of a life-time keeps our mental health in balance to see how far the journey has come through periods of dedicated pursuit.
You’re 24 credits closer to your dream degree than last year. You are thousands of dollars closer to being debt free than last year. You’re 52 weeks closer to adopting a child than last year.
For some these statements seem imaginary. For you though, they bring hope. Our stories and God’s great plan will take place over a lifetime. Gain momentum, perspective and refueling by revisiting small victories in the past year than viewing your efforts as a waste over longer spans of time than originally hoped.
Birthdays don’t have to be your reason for yearly reflection. Maybe for you this can happen at the end of every year, the first day of the New Year, anniversaries, etc. Whichever day you choose, it is my greatest encouragement that you find time to remember.
“I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done.” (Psalm 143:5)