Of marking a birthday

I see not a step before me as I tread on another year.

But I’ve left the past in God’s keeping —

the future in His mercy shall clear;

and what looks dark in the distance may brighten as I draw near.

This poem by American writer of religious poetry, Mary Gardiner Brainard, occupies my reflection these days as I celebrate important birthdays both with families and parishioners. What I appreciate in these words is the acknowledgment of uncertainty about a ‘dark’ future. Even people of faith (can you believe it!) feel the anxiety of impending suffering and death. Especially as we age, in the latter years.

And yet, there is the hope of light beyond the dark. In southern Ontario we have recently experienced severe thunderstorms — even as I write these words! You know when a storm comes by looking at the sky and noticing the dark grey menace approach. It’s hard to believe in that moment of recognition that the sun is still shining somewhere above all that.

But what a relief and joy it is, after the storm passes, to glimpse the rays of light bursting through!

Marking a birthday is not just about a mindless party and excuse to indulge in our addictive behavior. But rather, birthdays are an opportunity to affirm faith in the future (despite the storms and uncertainties of life) and faith in the God who makes that glorious future possible.

And, to celebrate all these things with others.

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