I never saw it coming.
I’ve not ever been one to enjoy my own birthday celebrations. They weren’t a big deal growing up, so I never put much emphasis on them. I love celebrating others, but having the fun focused on me is uncomfortable at best.
I made it through my birthday with well-wishes galore, reflections of love and kindness that were wonderful even if it felt a bit awkward. The morning after I was getting ready for work and walked into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.
All six of my kids were sitting there, huge grins on their faces. They chorused, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”
I was completely taken by surprise, caught off guard in a great way, and found myself speechless.
I’m never speechless.
The tears came.
My heart leaked through my eyes.
Love does that to a person. It opens you to hope, joy, pain, and sorrow because we care about someone else more than we do about ourselves. Three of my children live in Orlando; the others live in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. They each made a sacrifice to be here–even the ones in town. They chose to be with me; they counted the cost of being present for the whole weekend.
Love is an action of the heart and will. It’s not pure emotion because it isn’t selfish; it’s never just about us. The actress Katherine Hepburn wisely commented, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get–only with what you are expecting to give–which is everything.” Love isn’t that which takes for itself; it graciously gives to the one loved without expecting anything in return, even if the cost is high.
To love you must truly know the other person and be vulnerable enough to let them know you. Author John Ortberg said, “You can only love someone to the extent you really know them. And you can only be loved to the extent you are really known.”
The challenge to love today is allowing others to see us for who we are. To allow our deepest selves to be seen and known. Difficult in a culture where we work so hard to manage how others see us.
We can’t hide anything from God. He sees everything about us. And still chooses to love us.
The prophet Zephaniah described the delight and love of the Lord for His people because He does know us:
“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take DELIGHT in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will REJOICE over you with JOYFUL songs.” Zephaniah 3:17
Being loved by God with such joy, even knowing the depth of our brokenness, is a love that’s inconceivable. It’s greater than we can comprehend, greater than we deserve, nothing we could ever earn. It’s His gift to us as we receive His forgiveness.
My kids know my weirdness and faults, my finer points and humor, my good and bad. They’ve lived with it–and still choose to love me. To be with me. That’s honest love.
God’s love for me is greater. I can’t offend, surprise, shock, or bother Him so much that He would walk away from me.
He celebrates me.
That’s love worth acknowledging.