By Ellen Nimmo
Today’s my birthday
It ain’t much of a thing to me
Cause birthdays come and birthdays go
As anyone can see
But what of those who die young?
And what of those lost at sea?
And what of all the minutes which pass
Underneath the eye of Deity
What of the Song of Songs
And what of the hummingbird’s wing
A pang of hope
A jolt of joy
Oh glory let it be
To keep the days and hours in light
Of Your eternity
Today’s my birthday. It ain’t much of a thing to me. But maybe it should be. After all, what’s life without birth?
Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.
My mother told me about the day I was born once before. She said she was feeling unsure as the labor intensified. She said she asked the doctor, “What can I do?” the doctor told her to, “Breath and push.” Classic. She also told me that once the doctor told her how she could help, how she could bring the birth to fruition, she felt much more at ease. She told me it felt more akin to an orgasm than something very painful. Can you imagine!? Now, I don’t know if this is exact or if my mother’s memory is giving us the rosier-reel, but I also suspect that the way in which birth has been portrayed on television and in films (all screaming and such) isn’t always that accurate either, so I tend to think it landed somewhere in between.
Several years ago, as part of a little break at work, an old coworker of mine asked a group of us: If you were doing the soundtrack to your life, which song would played at your birth and which at your funeral?
I liked the question. But being the emo kid that I am, I couldn’t let a question like that go by without a response that lies somewhere between sardonic and sweet. “I’d have a somber violin song during the birth scene and a powerful, joyful sounding trumpet tune for the exit,” I said with a oh-so-emo-smirk. Wrap your head around that one, I thought.
I can be such a turd.
I think what I’m getting at is that birthdays aren’t exactly my jam. Don’t ask me why, reason escapes me. Birthday or not, what seems obvious is that I waffle between being a regular ol’ Positive Polly and a real Negative Nancy. But I should probably find myself squarely between the two. Usually, when waffling happens, it means I’m letting the circumstances du jour dictate whether or not I feel more like Polly or Nancy. But I shouldn’t be either, I should just be Ellen.
This isn’t to toot my own melancholic horn here, but I’m pretty good at spotting the suffering. I can also come across as offensively optimistic, to those who don’t know me. And what I can’t help in noticing is that no matter how well or poorly things appear to be going, you better bet, it’s gonna change pretty quick.
Life is a mixed bag. There’s laughter, music, architecture, delicious food, mountains, and rivers, and sunsets, and hummingbird whisperers. There’s also pollution, war, and selfishness; there’s piles of rotting trash and friends that do you wrong.
Surely then, that conscientious middle-ground is where we all ought to reside. If our eyes are truly open, we’ll see both the incredible levels of suffering in this world and the innumerable opportunities for wonder and joy which quiver in the air all around us, waiting to be discovered.
If you’ve been around Christianity for a while, you’ve probably hear the phrase, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Which is a very bizarre thing to say. Still, I wonder if its strangeness gets lost on us. Do we rejoice? Do we also experience sorrow with those who are hurting?
What can get a person to live like that? To experience deep sorrow and still rejoice? Is there such a people? I hope so. It would do so much to think it were even possible. Because it would mean that the hope of the gospel is true.
Do you think about your life in light of nirvana, an eternity with God? Or are you more like me, tossed about in the waves of viewing life as either positive or negative? Can we, as the phrase above implores, see things as they are: a paradoxical mix of good and bad until God’s Kingdom come. With the security of heaven ever-stirring us to “breath and push,” “breath and push,” as we navigate a world full of anguish and miracle, ever onward towards the prize: days without end in the presence of God.