“Happy birthday, Elijah.” Nineteen times we celebrated those words. Today would have been the twentieth. For nineteen years we laughed and joked, opening gifts and blowing out candles. Today we choke back tears and reflect on the impact Elijah had on our lives.
Birthdays are usually pretty exciting events, especially for children. As parents, we love to see our children smile, and we love to show them how special they are. Who doesn’t want to be the center of attention for the day? At least for one day out of the year we can be celebrated for who we are rather than what we’ve accomplished.
A birthday celebrates the importance of life. We all started out as small, fragile babies. No baby will ever remember their first day, but as parents we especially cherish that day. Melanie and I have enjoyed five of those special days, and they all have some things in common.
On the one hand, we felt relief. We were no longer just ‘expectant’ parents. We were transformed into full-time parents, who’s lives were forever changed.
On the other hand, we realized that every moment from that day forward was an open possibility. Only the Lord knows what marvelous things will come from this little person’s life. Such a small baby, but their future work could have great and lasting impact on the world.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10).
I have come to realize that birthdays for adults are not actually intended to celebrate the past. They are reminders of how many wonderful possibilities lie ahead of us. Yesterday is done. Tomorrow is unwritten. Every single day is a new celebration. We may not celebrate each day as a birthday, but that’s sort of what each day is. The birth of a new day is the chance to move from a mundane life to a purpose-driven life.
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with Elijah on the last birthday he will ever celebrate with us here. We talked about how special it was to have a birthday on the very day that our nation celebrates life after 9/11. Elijah was born on 9/12. Before 9/11, many Americans will admit to living their lives as though tomorrow was guaranteed. On 9/12, we learned not to take our future for granted. While 9/11 is a date that will be recorded in infamy, 9/12 represents new beginnings. It represents a chance to live life on purpose.
Elijah’s birthday was special for so many reasons. We don’t have him with us to enjoy his laughter and smiles. But we will always celebrate 9/12 as the date on the calendar when we recognize the importance of making a difference in the world. Elijah chose to live life on purpose to the glory of God. And the example of his life continues to have a beautiful impact on so many thousands of lives all over the world.
We may be separated for a short while, but God’s love will put a permanent end to separation.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:38)
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