March 31, 1970 was my advent into this world. I popped out of Jackie Bryant with the aid of nature, Dr. Herndon, and a trained staff of people in Douglas, GA. I hit the four-six this week and I celebrate it by being seated in court. I have been subpoenaed as a character witness against a parishioner—a first—and one odd gift for the big four-six. And it has to be this way—for originally the court had subpoenaed me at a time that would have wreaked havoc on a cousin’s wedding day—for the officiant—me— would have had to have missed the wedding.
I am not looking forward to tomorrow. I try not to let anxiety chair the board of my mind, and I try not to take a resentment that a day that I’d like to spend at rest is to be spent under duress. I still haven’t had much down time after Holy Week and Easter so I am feeling weary and old—a bit more than usual. I looked at another cousin’s FB page and saw her cruising the Florida waterways with Corona and friends—-for a moment I was so envious that I could burst, but then that gave way to a warm smile because the sweet cousin of mine deserves some celebration. My celebration day will come, too, just not this day or the day after. And as she reminded me recently, “It is a good thing that you do.”
I ought to be filling this post with reflections on Holy Week—that’d be more in keeping with the spirit of this blog, and probably more in line with my call to holy orders, but instead I’ll offer a Top Ten List of What this Cleric enjoys for his birthday. Then, after a moment I’ll follow up with a Top Ten List of What I do not enjoy for my birthday. These Top Ten Lists speak to my call to be a human being—-a real person—the first call that came upon me on March 31, 1970.
Top Ten List of What this Cleric Likes for His Birthday:
- To not have a single thing to address—not challenges, no problems, no solution seekers.
- To not hear these words, “Pastor, I know you are off, but….”.
- To not be thrust into a social event or crowd—wife, wine, and sons are fine.
- To not get another Bible—–For Yahtzee’s sake, save a tree, and spare me, and these both at once!
- To not get anything authored by Franklin, Piper, Meyers, or O’Steen–no Zondervan.
- To receive tender memories of times together from well-wishers.
- To receive unexpected gratitude.
- To receive time for being.
- To receive continually that I’m a messy ball of crazy & undeserving of so great a life.
- To receive that more years might be behind than before me and so embrace this day.
Top Ten List of What this Cleric Does Not Enjoy for His Birthday:
- To be seen as the source for solutions, solver of problems, and this all at once.
- To be seen as one whose time is 100% the just due of the Church or her people.
- To be thrust into a celebration by a “need-meeter” who uses my birthday to do so.
- To be the recipient of a Bible or devotional; 22 is enough already, no re-gifts included in that 22-count.
- To be asked (again and again) what I did for my birthday. (I try not to do! It’s about being for me!)
- To be asked (ad nauseum) what did I want for my birthday. (I have no expectations!)
- To be forced into answering #5 and #6 through nagging and guilt-tripping.
- To be expected to celebrate in a certain way, because one says, “That’s how I’d do it.”
- To receive white syrupy wine and have to drink w/the giver. (I like full-bodied reds.)
- To see shock when (after being pestered) I answer #5 that I celebrated with a gin martini and husband and wife alone time.
Those are the 10 Likes and 10 Dislikes that I face when 3/31 rolls around and people feel called to celebrate me. Many who really don’t know me have never done enough discernment about our relationship to discover these things about me. But this year there’s that one new wrinkle on my natal anniversary. There’s the call to be a faithful citizen….that subpoena which has laid temporary claim on me. (a call I’d rather not answer on any given day.)
So let me think this through again. One call—gave life to me. Another call–put a ring on a finger. And still another placed a big white collar around my neck. And one call carried me to court. So many calls upon a single person.
Almost 22 years ago, answering one call, I stood in a courthouse quite by my own choice with a young blond. We received our wedding license that day. Now almost 22 years to the day, answering another call, I will stand in a courthouse not quite by my own choice and under far different conditions.
And meanwhile somewhere in this same current time frame a young couple in DC prepares to meet in Florida to follow their sense of call to wed. My 22nd wedding anniversary will soon become their wedding anniversary. Way back in 1994, something I thought on my wedding day back then, some 2 weeks after my 24th birthday, still applies to every call I have encountered, even now—yes—even now. These words of 1st century Rabbi Gamaliel really do fit any sense of call:
“So in the present case…if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (NRSV)
Disciples proclaimed the news that Christ is risen—-and temple authorities got hacked—-and to this end Gamaliel speaks. And his speaking goes directly to call—in that day specifically to the call the disciples were living out.
And a truth of human life is this—calls abound. And calls bring all sorts of unexpected adventures. Calls come on birthdays, and wedding days, and all other days to boot. So how ’bout giving this ole reverend a birthday gift—ponder this question—“Since God has purpose for me what am I being called to be and do?”
Right now I have literally been called to spend the dying moments of a man’s life with his wife of 48 years. My purpose is clear and I am being and doing what I am called to be and do.
So–again I ask, “Since God has purpose for you what are you called to be and do?”