Last week I had a birthday. Yes, another one. I vaguely remember a time when birthdays were rare jewels of mythical wonder, but these days they come around fairly often and forget to bring balloons. Back then, my Birthday Buddy came with happy promises of greater freedom and privilege, but now he’s changed his tone and started to pick up the annoying habit of whispering about mortality and time. This can tend to dampen celebrations, but I’ve got something to say to the Birthday Bully:
I don’t fear you, because I don’t fear the finish line.
I know my life is finite. I’ve been to graveyards. I know how this ends. Your whispers of despair aren’t news to me. In fact, I’m thankful for the finish line. Can you imagine trying to run a race without one? Life is a race. It’s hard, sweaty stuff, with cramping muscles and blisters and such. And the course we’re on is difficult, winding up, down, and through a world broken by sin. And the brokenness isn’t just around me: my own heart is infected as well, often making it difficult to put one foot in front of the other. Usually, I’m still happy to be here and run this race. It’s a privilege to fill broken lungs with broken air. But it’s also tiring. This place is wearing me down, little by little, like the never-ending waves erode the rocks. If there was no end in sight, I’m not sure I could get out of bed in the morning and face it.
But there is an end. There is a finish line to life. It’s not quite in sight yet, but I know one thing for sure: it’s not far off. It could be around the next bend, or it could be miles away, but either way its existence drives me forward to run as hard as I can right now. I may only have a short time here, but I do have time, and I want it to mean something. So I’ll push hard and give this moment everything I’ve got, because I know there’s a finish line. I’ll endure the pain and cry the tears, because I know there’s a finish line. I’ll put this body and soul to work hard at what they were made for, even if I use them up, because I know there’s a finish line.
To be clear, I can only say this because I have a Friend at the finish line who is ready to catch me as I fall into His arms, ready to fully restore my broken heart, fill my lungs with unbreakable life, and make me whole. If it weren’t for Him, I wouldn’t feel this way or live this way. If the finish line was only a cliff gaping into oblivion, I would fear it. I would do my best to hold back the hands of time and wrap my fingers tight around every shred of happiness I could come by. And I would probably listen to the Birthday Bully.
But the Birthday Bully won’t have the last word for me. Not even the Grim Reaper can have that. My Saviour defeated him 2,000 years ago, and turned the finish line, our greatest curse, into the very gate of Heaven. Will He let me in? I am fully confident that He will. Maybe that sounds proud, but I can tell you honestly that my confidence has nothing to do with me. All I bring to God is my sin, need, and brokenness. He does the rest. My confidence is based on the fact that He has done the rest for all who put their lives in His hands.
So bring on the birthdays. I’m ready to run, knowing that my strength doesn’t have to last forever. I can breathe the joy and pain of this place and endure for as long as it lasts, and I can do it all knowing that the best really is yet to come.