Double Nickels

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

For twenty-two years, I have shared my birthday with the death-aversary of my Father-in-law, Terry Giboney. This means that every year on the eve of Pearl Harbor Day, I feel a strange mix of emotions: gratitude for another year of life, sorrow at my daughters not having a living memory of their Papa Terry, excitement to celebrate my birthday with family and friends, sadness for what Carrie and her family have lost. Each year, December sixth brings me the reminder that our lives are a strange blend of gain and loss, joy and sorrow, growth and decay. This date helps me personalize the great poem of Ecclesiastes 3 which articulates the up and down, back and forth nature of human life. It helps me as I struggle to make my own confession of Job 1, “…the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Strange as this may sound, the annual combination of a birthday and a death-aversary has proved to be beneficial to me in a couple of ways. Celebrating a birthday while remembering a death reminds me that I am mortal, that this body will fail me, that I will one day be laid to rest six feet under. If this seems morbid to you, let me assure you that it has had just the opposite effect on me! To remember that I will certainly die helps me receive each day as a gift. I am far less likely to bear petty grudges or complain about inconsequential grievances when I’m fully aware of what a gift today is. I am more likely to hug, forgive, laugh, appreciate, rejoice, celebrate, and sing when I’m cognizant that any day this can all go away.

Second, as December sixth helps me remember that very few things are permanent. The Christmas tree we spent half a day finding and decorating will, by the end of the month, go out with the trash. The gifts we are so eagerly shopping for right now will probably end up being sold at a garage sale for fifty cents. The house I’m living in will one day be bulldozed and replaced. People who have been my dearest friends will move away. My successor in ministry at Conejo will one day change many ministries I have developed and emphasized. None of this is tragic. It simply is a part of life’s seasonality. If I remember this, it provides me the gift of holding things loosely, of enjoying them fully while it is the season to enjoy them, and letting them go when it is time to let them go.

May God bless you with these twin gifts of gratitude and contentment.

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