The History of Birthdays

I don’t have one of those dramatic conversion stories you hear from some people.

You know the kind – I was a teenage runaway who prostituted to pay for my heroin addiction, and then Jesus saved me and now I’m married with three beautiful children.

My story is more of a slow burn. An awakening. I can’t really pinpoint the moment in time when Jesus grabbed me, though I have a clear sense he’s been wooing me most of my life.

The closest thing I have to a point of conversion is the day I moved to Seattle – September 21, 1990 – twenty years ago today.

This day feels sacred to me, in the sense that tradition is sacred because it represents something deeper, something meaningful. In our traditions we pause to acknowledge the passing of time, and the changing of ourselves in that time, and of course the inaugural event our tradition remembers.

On September 21, 1990 I turned nineteen years old, and on that same day I moved away from home for what turned out to be forever. I came with two suitcases and a box, wearing flats, a red plaid skirt, green turtlenck, and a headband in my perfectly bobbed hair.

I cannot find a picture of myself on that day, nor have I seen one from anyone else. Yet if you ask anyone who met me on that day they will describe me exactly as I just did.

We all remember that day.

I’ve always viewed my life in terms of Before Seattle and After Seattle – my Then and Now, my B.C. and A.D. I find that no matter how busy I am or how little attention I pay to my actual birthday, the significance of this day still gives me pause, often surprising me with its weight.

This morning it happened as I read Psalm 31:24, the last verse in my Psalm for the day:

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Right then I burst into tears. I sobbed. I was filled with gratefulness and joy because Jesus is so faithful to me – always, but especially from this day on twenty years ago when he brought me to this new place and set me on a new course.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I became a new person that day. I became His.

Every day since then has been an unraveling of myself, the unclenching of my fisted heart. But where I let go and open up, he fills me with himself. He never leaves me empty or wanting.

So on this day each year I commemorate my friends, my community, the potholes and roadblocks and u-turns, the deaths, the gut-busting laughter, and the scars that remind me I’m victorious in all things.

That, my friends, is the History of Birthdays.

One thought on “The History of Birthdays”

  1. I love you Jen. I’m glad to be a part of your story in this present day. Thanks for everything. You are a blessing to me and a great joy, even in the crazy times.

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