Upgrade Your Birthday: Take a Cha—Cha—Cha—Chance
By Ed Delph
July 5, 2021
One of my favorite people in the world is my brother-in-law, who is celebrating his 80th birthday this month, July 2021. I thought I would encourage Bill, who will be 80 years young, and all of you readers, with an upgraded view of birthdays.
A few years ago on my birthday, I read an essay that astounded me. It is written by my friend and colleague, Pastor Gregory Lan Ijiwola, who posted this wonderful piece on his Facebook page.
He is Nigerian by birth and one of the finest examples of a Christian I have ever met. He and his wife Debo have invested their lives in building a great community-transforming church in the south Chicago area. If you know Africans, they have a fantastic way of capturing and putting into words unexpected ways of describing concepts that Westerners would never consider.
As I read the essay, I was stunned by his authenticity, integrity, humility, and audacity. His writing about himself on his birthday was entitled Happy Birthday to Me. Usually, people sing Happy Birthday to You. But Gregory captured and articulated something special from which we all can glean. Here's his essay.
“I have failed and have succeeded. I have fallen and have risen. I have lacked and had plenty. I have loved and struggled to love. I have dreamed and have doubted. I have laughed and have wept. I have feared and have dared.
"I have fought, and I have reconciled. I have been broken, and I have mended. I have 'friended,' and I have offended. I have been sad, and I have been joyful. I have despaired, and I have hoped. I have been helped, and I have helped. I have lost, and I have gained. I have given, and I have withheld. I have been cold, and I have been hot. I have gone, and I have stayed. I have complained, and I have praised. I have been foolish, and I have been wise.
"Through it all, I am alive. I am loved. I am saved. I am on a journey. I am not quitting, stopping, or meandering. I am Gregory Lan Ijiwola. Always pushing forward. Always dreaming. Always rising. Always advancing. Always daring. Always hoping. Always grateful. Happy birthday to me!”
Wasn’t that refreshing? Happy birthday to me. Someone reading this needs Pastor Gregory’s essay today. Like Pastor Gregory, you have been through challenges and trials. Some difficulties and wounds originated from the choices you made. Some did not. You have been up, down, and all around. You might feel lower than a snake's belly right now. But you are here. You are alive. So far, you've survived 100% of your worst days. You aren't perfect. You've made mistakes. You have offended and been offended. You've been both wrong, and you have been right. That’s life.
Jesus said it’s inevitable that stumbling blocks will come in this life. There will be trials. Jesus also said blessed is the one who is not overcome by what God is doing amid the difficulties in our lives. Someone once said, "Mountain tops inspire leaders; valleys mature them." Remember, failure is a bruise, not a tattoo. No grit, no pearl. Welcome to maturity and overcoming. The idea is to grow up before we grow old. Aspire to inspire before you expire. Is it one day or day one? Be an overcomer, don't be overcome. You decide.
Not if, but when Pastor Gregory falls or fails, he gets up. He recovers. He learns. He overcomes. He will never be perfect. He realizes setbacks pave the way for comebacks. That's called life. Excrement happens! The only people who don't create waste are dead people. That's not an excuse. It's real life.
Happy Birthday to Me is a celebration of who you are and Whose you are. But not the self-absorbed, “It’s all about me,” ‘selfie’ way. Happy Birthday to Me declares we’ve learned and are recovering from our mistakes or the mistakes others have made toward us. We won’t go forward if we’re always looking backward. We've applied forgiveness, grace, and mercy to ourselves and others. Life is not an event; it's a process. Everyone is building their airplane while it’s flying. Learning curves are not straight. Quit expecting them to be.
Author Bill Bryson once commented on the remarkable odds of everyone’s existence at this time and place in history.
"Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from their life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result — eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly — in you.” In other words, when the Lord made you, He looked at you and said, “I’ll never do that again.”
Quit trying to be somebody else. Why? Everybody else is taken. Here's my appeal to you today. No matter what date your birthday is, today, right now, humbly but confidently sing, “Happy Birthday to Me!”
So, happy 80th birthday to Bill, as well as all of you in 2021.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com