I’ve blogged before about how much I love Valentine’s Day, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I love my birthday. I love other people’s birthdays, too, but I LOVE my birthday. I celebrate all month.
Early in February, I threw a little birthday party for myself. I invited all my friends in San Diego to come to lunch on Super Bowl Sunday – after church, but before the game. I had 20-25 people RSVP, and I reserved tables at a local restaurant.
I know to hold RSVP’s loosely – especially in San Diego, and especially since most of the people on the guest list were from my old church (which is notoriously bad with RSVPs). But even I was surprised when only 10 people besides me showed up. Literally half of the people who said they were coming wound up not coming, and some of them didn’t even text to say sorry. They simply didn’t show.
A couple of days later, I had a cancellation for another event (okay, if you must know, it was a tea party for my birthday) the next weekend, to which I’d only invited a few people anyway.
Both of these things were on the heels of having people cancel last-minute for dinners that we’d planned, people decline or ignore my invitations to meet up for lunch, my brother withhold really important information about his life, and just generally trouble with making friends as quickly as I’d like to in my new town.
It all added up this week to making me feel really unimportant to other people. I felt left out, and I think that’s one of the WORST feelings in the world.
I went through a series of thoughts:
I tried to make it about me: Ugh, why is it so difficult to make friends up here? I’m doing everything RIGHT! I’m not making people drive all the way to me when I want to hang out, I’m inviting people to my house for dinner with plenty of advance notice, I’m serving in church, etc. What is my problem? I always try really hard to not let people feel left out.
I tried to make it about them: It’s okay, I understand that [fill in the blank – their kids got sick, their trip got moved, they are really busy, their car broke down]. If I were in their place, I’d probably do the same thing.
I went back and forth: I totally get it that you don’t want to come to my birthday party when you’re throwing up, but what’s that other person’s excuse for not even texting? They just forgot? I’ve never forgotten about them. In fact, I went above and beyond to serve that person one time, and now he/she is bailing on my BIRTHday party!? Who DOES that!? It’s okay, 10 people still showed up; I shouldn’t be so unfair to those people.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither train of thought was satisfactory. When I tried to make it all about myself or all about the other person, I felt left out, unloved, frustrated, impatient, and downright mean. So I needed to take a different tactic. I decided to see what happened when I applied the Gospel.
In the story of the Gospel, I’m not the one being left, forgotten, or ignored; I’m the one doing the wrong. I turn my back on God every time I sin. I forget about Jesus on the cross every time I’m selfish. I ignore the Holy Spirit every time I say something mean or argue with my roommate or try to pass the blame for my wrongs onto someone else.
You see, my sin separates me from God, so God did something about that without my help. He sent His only son (Jesus) to pay for my sin with His own life – and then to rise from the dead, thus making a way for me to be with God forever.
In the story of the Gospel, I’m not the one extending grace; I’m the one being forgiven. God turns His back on my sin. Jesus forgets about my selfishness because of the cross. The Holy Spirit keeps reaching out to me, no matter how many times I don’t reach out to Him.
Because of the Gospel, no matter my circumstances or feelings, I’m never left out of the most important thing: salvation. I’m never unloved, because Jesus died for me. I’m never forgotten or forsaken, because the Holy Spirit has claimed me permanently and eternally.
Because of the Gospel, I don’t need to look to other people or to myself for ultimate satisfaction and acceptance. I already have those things. Then whatever good things I have because of people – those are blessings/bonuses/God’s birthday gifts to me.
THIS train of thought was satisfactory. When I applied the Gospel, I felt included, loved, satisfied, patient, and downright joyful.
God was kind to show me these things this past week, and I thought that would be the end of it. But this past Saturday, I had more people than I’d originally planned show up for my birthday princess tea party. All of them were people at my new church, whom I’d met since moving up here.
Not only had I been wallowing in lies about my relationship with Jesus; I’d been stumbling into lies about my friendships with new people in a new town. God is so good to me, and He is still showing me how perfect His plan is. Even if that plan hasn’t included a Valentine’s Day wedding yet (hey, a girl can dream).