“Thank you, Lord. Thank you for letting me live long enough…” It’s what I said the day I turned 50. I am celebrating 50 years since my Mother walked from her OBGYN to Petersburg General Hospital to give birth to her second child. My brother, Chris, was thirteen months old almost to the day and was staying with my paternal grandparents in Hopewell, VA a few miles away.
My aunt Denise, Mom’s sister-in-law, was in nursing school and dropped Mom off for her weekly checkup. Mom went to the appointment to find I had plans to arrive three weeks early. Hence the stroll across the street to the hospital labor and delivery. So, where was my father? He was in Mexico City working for the FBI. He first saw me when I was six weeks old. These are the stories each parent tells me of their memories of my birth, and I treasure them.
My tenth birthday fell on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1977. Our pastor, Rev. Liverman, was a charismatic, southern preacher who could well have been in the pulpit of a Baptist church, or doubled as Santa Claus. He was the one who showed the Light of Christ for the first time – his warmth, joviality, and caring nature – all the attributes of Jesus I’d imagined from the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”¹. My response to his Jesus-like presence – deciding to be baptized.
The junior youth had the opportunity to be baptized in the pond near the church at Sunrise Service on Easter morning. I wore a brand new white dress, special for the occasion. I imagined it as major spiritual event in which I would be dunked under the water and emerge to a full cleansing and transformation. That was not so – the air was cold, the pond was misty, and a full immersion baptism when it was 30 degrees was out of the question. I felt cheated, but went through the sprinkling of water on the forehead that Easter morning. I wanted it to be so much more.
My 20th, 30th, and 40th birthday were filled with relationships and events that were not healthy, not of God’s design, and glad they are over. These were the “dead” decades.
Most people think I am crazy to embrace my passing birthdays. I welcome each one. Age has never been a negative barrier for me, only my own dead living. My life is so different than it was 10 years ago, even 20 years ago. The spiritual rebirth I expected at the baptismal event on my Easter Sunday/10th birthday took decades to find. God let me live long enough to see this happen at forty-two. Now, I’m fifty! I am so happy to be here!
My spiritual birth – the true celebration. Reborn into God’s Family – Jesus is my daily Present, the Holy Spirit is my companion. I live in His Kingdom through all the joy and sorrow. I am reborn in Spirit – a birth I celebrate again and again – a life I treasure. So, I celebrate five decades of breathing, living, loving, and learning. Thank God for letting me live to see this 50th year!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
1 Peter 1:3 NIV