As you read this, I want to clear the air before we go any further. My birthday is approaching and if you must know, I am turning 25. #InsertSportsPlayerWhoWore25OnTheirJersey. The bible doesn’t really say much on birthdays. I mean the last time a birthday was mentioned in the bible, a little girl requested for a guy to be beheaded [Matthew 6:29-41]. Yikes! When the world says you are suppose to go the club to get ‘wasted,’ you start to wonder how is a young believer is suppose to celebrate their birthday? Without much biblical truths, we tend to create our own personal by-laws and doctrines that dictate how we are celebrated on our own day of remembrance.
I don't want to say I am not a fan of birthdays. I just don’t feel the “urge” to celebrate my own, or anyone else’s for that matter. I refuse to be a Birthday Diva, who acts crazy days before their birthday and “discovers” who their real friends are simultaneously. Sounds familiar? Which is why, for the last three birthdays, my friends took the mantle and rose to the occasion of planning my birthday after persistently asking me about my nonexistent plans. I don’t hate birthdays, but I tend to see them differently than others.
I am Olamide, and this is my birthday song.
Birthdays are a day to honor people, not celebrate them
I have amazing memory. Well, I think I do. I just can't recall how I spend my money. Anywho, I remembered a friend’s birthday was coming up, however, I didn’t know the exact day, though I perceived it was fastly approaching. So I cautiously asked her when her birthday was. You can already imagine my surprise when she replied back with a fake birthday! She thought she was going to pull one over on me! After going back and forth with her, she stated she didn’t celebrate her birthday. I told her that's understandable: you don't have to celebrate your birthday, but you can be honored.
We live in a generation where we can easily become consumed with ourselves. And our birthday isn't a day off from that, but a pass to go full throttle. I explained that I wanted to know her birthday because I like to try to call my close friends on their birthday and pray for them as they enter a new age. If not a call, I’ll send a text. [If I didn’t call you on your birthday, forgive me. I am still cultivating this habit.] I like to use the opportunity to speak life into this new age and bless them as they embark on their growth into maturity. I didn't want to come to her house with balloons and cupcakes, as I record her reaction for all of social media to witness. I wanted to honor her and thank God for placing her in my life.
Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
1 Peter 2:17 NKJV
In the walls of community, God wants us not only live our lives together interactively, but to simultaneously love and honor each other as we do so. The key components of love and honor is what differentiates us from the world’s culture of co-existing. And birthdays are not a day off from manifesting this culture of honor, but really a day to really live it out. A day to thank the Lord for their life, all that He has done, and is doing through them and in their life.
Birthdays should be about the celebrant, not us
Last year a group of us were brainstorming ideas on how we could celebrate another friend’s birthday (this friend is worse than me when it comes to personal birthdays). We didn’t know what she wanted to do for her birthday, so we called her best friend. Great idea, right? Yeah definitely, because she spoke wisdom into the situation and gave us a great idea. Sometimes when we try to honor people on their birthday, we can lose focus on how to celebrate them because we are trying to impress them or go over the top in a unique personalized way, and completely miss the point: to honor them. We can get lost in trying to show out to honor them, that we aren’t really honoring them. We just seem to aim to honor for the sake of saying, “we honor them” and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:10 HCSB
So how can you honor a person on their birthday? Well, you can try to do something they actually enjoy doing such as going to a see a play, taking an art class, taking a weekend trip or simply just chilling with close friends. Or maybe you can present to them the solution to something they have been desiring from God like paying off a financial burden or providing a much needed study bible.
Birthdays are a way for others to encounter Christ and His love
A few years ago, an older brother in Christ was scolding my friend for not incorporating the gospel into her graduation celebration. Um..dude, it’s a cookout, not a church service. What should she do? Have an altar call by the grill as we break bread with hot dog buns? Little did I know then, he had a valid point. Celebrations are a time for unbelievers to partake in the gathering of the brethren.
I have a friend who vowed to God that all her birthdays will be used to glorify God. She gathers people from all walks of life together to encounter the Lord. Two of my closest friends gave their lives to God at her worship night. Us “celebrating” our birthdays, can be an ultimate evangelism technique that allows us to freely share the love and Gospel of Christ. People come ready to celebrate us, but they leave with a taste of how it feels to experience His love. Because of this, many friends, family, and peers are led to the Lord.
So how do we create such an environment? It doesn’t have to be a full blown church service. It can be as simple as sharing the gospel, allowing others to receive
I told you I don’t hate birthdays. I just see them differently. Over the last few years, the Lord has been shifting my perception on birthdays. Before I really thought it was about me, being that it was my day. But the Lord has transformed my mind from thinking about myself, to thinking about others, using my birthdays to allow all - believers and unbelievers- to encounter Him. Instead of me forcing people to honor me the way I want to be honored and getting offended if they don't live up to my expectations, He changed my heart to allow others to honor me in their own special ways. Ever since I allowed others to honor me, my relationship with them has grown with a deepened love that I couldn't force with my own power.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved”
1 Corinthians 10:31-33