By Charlie Johnston
A few years back at a family gathering, my son told me, “Dad, you’re great with Christmas, great with Easter, really good at Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. But when it comes to birthdays, you stink!” Everybody laughed.
I don’t know why, but I never really got birthdays. They make me uncomfortable and a little queasy – not because I am older, but because they are so relentlessly self-referential and don’t really celebrate anything except surviving another year. There have been many years when I just hid until it was over…and snickered with glee at the accomplishment if I was able to get through with no one noticing. Of course, with the rise of Facebook, that will never happen again.
On this birthday, I am deeply grateful for those of you who have written to say I have helped you find peace and calm in the midst of turmoil by reacting with an ever-deepening trust in the providence of Our Lord. For all the motives critics try to assign to me, the simple truth is I am a true believer, in every fiber of my being. If you understand that, I am very predictable. I prefer the good opinion of my brothers and sisters, but the only thing that really counts is the approval of my eternal Dad. I spent decades scared to death about the implications of what I have been shown…and decades trying to wiggle off the hook. But I made a fundamental promise to the Lord very long ago that if these things should come to pass, I would do my best to give the rest of His children heart to endure, to be signs of hope, and assurance that He was with us. It has been scary because the problems and disorders are so big and I am so little…but through all those years He showed me that, though I am indeed little and nearly helpless, He is big and has all under control – and will fill the gaps in whatever we do, no matter how ineffective, if we just do the little we can with steady resolve, always offering it up to Him. Now, I see a great army of the faithful rising, realizing the same thing and resolving to live it, come what may. The first real wisdom comes when we realize we can’t save the world – but we can acknowledge God, take the next right step and be a sign of hope. That so many of you have adopted that simple way and found real peace and hope in resolving to live it, makes my heart glad, indeed.
The picture at the top of this article is from the first time I met my grand-daughter, Lily. I was tickled that she took to me so quickly and naturally. Somehow, the memory of that moment today recalls to my mind how so many of you have received me. I am glad of it. Thank you.