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Disheveled Theologian: Birthday aspirations

I’m writing this while sitting by the window, gazing out at the snow-covered lake, thankful to be indoors but also enjoying the view. It’s my birthday today — the day I’m writing , not the day you’re reading — and it’s nice to take a little time to relax and bask in the winter sun.

When I was a kid the date of my birthday was always a bit of a drag, given that it was often the first day back to school after Christmas break. As an adult the fact that it comes after much over-indulgence makes it a bit of a bummer. The thought of birthday cake — or birthday cheesecake, as is usually the case — just isn’t that appealing after several weeks of holiday decadence.

And so I choose to extend the celebration. When the last of the Christmas cookies are stale and the proverbial fruitcake has been tossed out and the last crumb of the Swedish Almond Cake has been scarfed down, then I will make the birthday cheesecake and not a moment before.

Extended celebrations are not a bad idea. Kinda fun, really. On the other hand, constantly being reminded that you’re a little bit closer to the big 5-0 is a little daunting. Not that I would choose the alternative. I am, after all, glad to be alive, even if it means I am almost half a century old.

I’ve been reading about old guys in the Bible recently — super old guys. Guys to whom 50 was but a childhood phase. Methuselah. He holds the record at 969 years of age. Jared. He was 962. Noah was a mere 950 when he died, and Mahalalel was 895. Just a kid.

And then there was Enoch. Enoch lived to be 365 years old, and then he was no more. Note I didn’t say that he died. He just “was no more”. One day Enoch “could not be found,” Genesis 5:24 says, “because God took him”.

What? Why?

Hard to say, really. We just know this about him: that he “walked with God.” In a long list of truly ancient guys, all described as having “lived a total of” however many years, suddenly along comes Enoch. Rather than “living a total of” 365 years, he is described instead by his relationship with God. It wasn’t the living that mattered. It was the rapport.

And then, for whatever reason, God took him home. That was Enoch’s reward for a life lived alongside his God.

Scripture says that Noah “walked with God” as well. His reward was that he and his family were saved from the flood while the rest of the world perished.

I guess it pays to walk with God.

Even though my birthday isn’t at the most convenient (my dad still teases me that I missed being a tax deduction by three days), or party-worthy time of the year, I actually don’t mind it so much. Coming as it does to coincide with the beginning of a new year, it makes for an excellent time to reflect, to celebrate my life to date and anticipate the year ahead.

Given my recent reminder of Enoch and Noah’s examples, I can’t help but ask myself, have I “walked with God” over this past year to the best of my abilities?  And how, in the year ahead, shall I improve that walk? We don’t know much at all about Enoch or Noah beyond that they pleased God, but we know by the mere fact that they were human beings, that they couldn’t have been perfect.

Neither am I. By a long shot.

But even with his imperfections, Noah was commended for his faith.

That’s what I want my legacy to be. That’s what I want to shine forth from me, even as the sunshine warms me by the window on a frigid winter’s day.

Yes, we are imperfect, you and I. But that doesn’t disqualify us from walking with God.

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death…before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:5,6

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is gcodon@gmail.com.

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