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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Choosing A Birthday Gift

When we become parents, we tend to measure time by our children. When we think of a certain date or event, we pinpoint in our timeline by remembering how old our children were at the time, or what phase of their development or spiritual growth they were in. I still do that. Birthdays are especially significant.

I remember two years ago when my son's birthday was coming up--June 22, 2006. It was the first birthday we spent without him. He would have been 29 years old. I considered spending the day like a hermit, closed off away from the world. But that wasn't Jonathan's way, so neither would it be mine. I didn't want to slink back under the covers and pretend the day didn't exist. So I decided to face his birthday in a positive way.

In the days leading up to this milestone, I thought long and hard about what I might have given him for his birthday had he still been with us. Clothes? Electronics? Something for his apartment? But those things all seemed so shallow and trivial. I wanted to give him something with more lasting value--something for which he did not need a receipt so he could return it.

So I pushed my mind outside the box of traditional thinking. If Jonathan could be here for one more birthday, I'd want to give him . . . laughter and joy, peace, and . . . time.

But as I pondered each "gift", I came face to face with my own human fallibility. Yes, perhaps I could have done something for him to make him laugh or give him joy. Then I remembered a dream I had not long after he died. I dreamed I heard Jonathan laughing. The pure sound of it was an incredible, exquisite, joy-filled laugh, and I simply had to know what it was that had brought my son such joy. So in my dream I followed the sound of his laughter until I found him. He was on his face before Jesus, bathing Jesus' feet with joyous tears and kissing the nailprints. How could I ever expect to give my son a gift of laughter or joy that exceeded the joy he was already experiencing with Jesus?

My worldly gift of peacefulness also shriveled in the light of restful serenity that only comes from God. His peace is not like any other, certainly not like the peace the world gives. Our concept of peace is that of calmness and quiet feeling of satisfaction. In my humaness, any element of peace I might have given Jonathan would have been inconsequential, temporal, and superficial.

My last intended gift, the gift of time, surely must have had the angels in heaven scratching their heads and wondering, "What is she thinking?" How preposterous! Why would I want to give my son more time on this earth after he has tasted heaven? Then I realized this gift was not for Jonathan. It was for me. I wanted more time with my son. My motive was purely selfish.

James 4:14 says that our life is but a vapor that appears for a brief moment, no longer than a single heartbeat, and then it vanishes. But the stretch of time called eternity has no end. Jonathan is enjoying laughter, and joy, and peace--for timeless eternity.

These gifts I wanted to give my son for his birthday--gifts that sounded so noble and lofty coming from my lips--fell worthless into the dust of this earth. Jesus has already given each of these gifts to Jonathan. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..." James 1:17. The gifts Jesus gives are permanent, eternal, rooted and grounded in God's love. And Jonathan doesn't need a receipt so he can exchange them for something else.

Happy birthday, son. I pray you will have the most joyous birthday ever.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.