Happy Birthday to Me!

June 5, 2014

Today is my birthday, and given the bout with the Beast this past year, one worth celebrating with gusto! We are having a few friends over to share dinner and birthday cake, and if family tradition prevails, I am entitled to special treatment all day. Actually, maybe all week—we try to stretch our luck as far as we can. Last year at this time, our kids were putting on for us a joint celebration of our milestone 60th birthday. Relatives and friends came from all over and made us feel very loved, putting us at the center of attention.

Those were the BC days; who could know that within three or four months, I would be so medically challenged and that every day would be a gift? Why should I get cancer? Unfair! Right?

After all, do we not deserve a long life without trouble? Am I not a special person around whom the universe revolves, if even for a day annually? Is it not true that “God danced the day I was born” and because of God’s great love and provision I can expect special treatment the rest of my life?

Well, yes and no. The sentiments I have expressed here come dangerously close to an entitlement mentality we find so irritating in others, even as we cultivate our own little universe personally. Such an attitude affects the way people relate to other while driving, while shopping, and yes, even while doing ministry. The fact is, we would love to get our own way, be deferred to, applauded and feted every day of our lives. Eve and then Adam showed this self-centeredness, King David even used it to justify his dalliance with Bathsheba. From a biblical standpoint, an entitlement mentality gets people into really big trouble because it comes from a need that can never be satisfied, even though we try.

Take biblical Israel as a case in point. A people of such humble beginnings—the first three generations of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob hanging on by a thread—grew into a great nation as promised by God. God loved them and protected them, ultimately bringing them into the Promised Land and establishing them not only as a tribe but a nation.

As they grew in numbers and prestige, during the golden age of monarchy led by Saul, David, and Solomon, they began to develop a mindset of greatness. The great blessing God poured out upon them was perceived differently than it was intended. God poured out his grace (undeserved favor) and commissioned them to become a blessing to the world around them (blessed to be a blessing, Genesis 12:1-3). But they hoarded the blessing in fat-cat fashion, neglecting the poor and looking down on the needy and vulnerable. The prophets continuously brought this sin of pride to their attention, but their largesse led to national disaster despite prophetic pleas and warnings:

            How the faithful city [Jerusalem]
                        has become a whore!
                        She that was full of justice,
            righteousness lodged in her—
                        but now murderers!
            Your silver has become dross,
                        your wine is mixed with water.
           Your princes are rebels
                        and companions of thieves.
            Everyone loves a bribe
                        and runs after gifts.
            They do not defend the orphan,
                        and the widow’s cause does not come before them. (Isaiah 1:21-23)

The basic spiritual problem of entitlement is putting oneself at the center of life and universe, displacing God from his throne. You understand that this displacement is only a delusion, as nothing really can take the place rightly occupied by God. God is sovereign. But we think we can pull off the great magic trick and live the self-created fantasy of a world that revolves around our desires, our preferences, our timetable, or our tastes.

But can you just imagine what kind of world we would be living in if every person thought he or she was the center of the universe? Taken to its ultimate expression of selfishness, our world would be dominated by wars, ecological calamity, and violence. Oh, what am I saying? This is the world we live in! Mercy me, do I harbor the same selfishness and entitlement that fostered all that?!

Jesus says to us, “Yes, I love you and have gone to great lengths to pour my grace into your heart. Yes, I created you uniquely and you have a special role to play in my Kingdom. But it is my Kingdom, not yours! In order for you to fully realize its benefits, you must die to yourself and follow me. If you do this, you will be amazed at the impact you can have on the world and the glory that will return to my Father!”

I don’t think I can stop my friends from singing “Happy Birthday” tonight and blessing me with their good wishes. But as a person desiring to follow Jesus, as I receive that blessing, I will be asking God to show me how I can turn it around to become a blessing to others. Rather than inflate myself with thoughts of “I deserve this,” may the Spirit of Christ within me enlarge and empower my service to others, for their sakes and not my own!


4 Responses to “Happy Birthday to Me!”

  1. Debi Says:

    Amen and amen!!! Well said, as always, Mary. You ARE a huge blessing to others and are living out your calling among us, and we are so grateful for you! The happiest of happy birthdays to you, friend!

  2. BradVeitch Says:

    Happy Birthday, Mary. Best wishes for best ever! Enjoy and am challenged by the Word you bring! Thanks.

  3. Jeff Winter Says:

    Well written Mary; thoughtfully said. You are now almost as old as me

  4. cindy Says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SPECIAL FRIEND!!! A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY DESSERT WILL BE ON IT’S WAY TO YOU THIS WEEK… I’M ALL ABOUT THE BIRTHDAY WEEK. I’ve adopted that philosophy— anyone that has hit the 50’s deserves a birthday week, not a day.
    Love, Cindy

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