This year was the first year that I really did not want to celebrate my birthday. I really tried to think carefully about why this was so. Primarily, I think it was because of all the shortcomings that I have demonstrated in the preceding weeks; I was once again reminded of my own weakness and dependence on God and the faithful people in my life (See posting on 11/8). Coming out of those challenges all I really wanted to do was to look for ways to improve and grow, and to be able to more effectively serve the people in my life. 

So, among all this the idea of a birthday party sounded so… unfitting. Being exposed to my failures in the preceding days, the last thing that I wanted to do was to put myself in the center of attention. I had been humbled by all the things that God was teaching me about my lack of maturity in school and work, and all I wanted to do was to work on growing in those areas. 

It’s not that I was depressed and wanted to just hole up in my room. Its just that within this mindset of learning humility, it really, at the moment, didn’t make sense to have a big’ol  crowd of people come and all focus on me. However, as the day went on, I learned that God’s work in humbling me in this situation was still not complete. 

Seeing one happy face after the other walk in the door with their birthday greetings, and listening to each person talk, I was once again reminded of all the great love with which I am surrounded in my life. In this time of being hit by the reality of my failures,  God worked to remind me once again of his amazing love. 

I have never really seemed to see it to this great of a degree before. Of all the people in the world, why do I get to be here, in this town, in this church, in this youth? What have I done to deserve such a richness of relationships and life among such a unique group of biblically rooted christians? What have I done to deserve their love and care? Nothing. 

That evening, I really saw how the love of God in the lives of his people works to influence others. It surely did influence me. Despite the fact that I often fall short, God’s love is still demonstrated in the reality of his Gospel at work in my life. I still get to study and be influenced by his Word. And I am still surrounded by the loving support of his people. 

I was once again reminded of all that we have studied in the book of Ephesians about the depth of influence that results when God, by way of his Book, changes the practical lives of his people. A genuinely changed life is the greatest witness to the reality of the gospel that we claim to believe. It was remarkable for me to be reminded of how awesome and real the work of God is through the lives of his people is. More specifically, I could see the reality and power of his love to us despite our sin and failure.  

“How wonderful Your love, 
The mystery of mysteries, 
Filling up my heart, 
More glorious than I know.

How wonderful Your love, 
There’s nothing else so sweet to me,
I’ll never be apart, 
From the Lover of my soul.” 
– Mark Atrogge