At Least I’m Not Brad Pitt

I turn 40 on Easter Sunday.  40 seems like such a huge birthday, jam-packed with significance.  After all, 40 is a biblical number.   During Noah’s flood it rained 40 day and 40 nights.  The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert.  Let’s face it, when it comes to God stuff, forty is epic and awesome.

When it comes  to my birthday, however, 40 just sounds kind of old.  So to make myself feel better I looked up a bunch of celebrities who are older than me but still seem cool.  Here’s my short list:

  1. Matt Damon, 41
  2. Russell Crowe, 48
  3. Daniel Craig, 43
  4. Will Smith, 43
  5. Brad Pitt, 48
  6. George Clooney, 50

Wow, I feel better already.  Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and George Clooney are practically in the nursing home.  I am way younger than those geezers.  Of course, they’re fabulously wealthy and good looking, if you go for that sort of thing, but there’s no amount of money on the planet that can make them younger than me.  Take that, Brad Pitt!

Isn’t it funny how much of our lives we spend comparing ourselves to others?  We live as if the quality of our lives is graded on a curve.   We compare our possessions, our relationships, our appearance, our age, even our morality to others, all in an effort to make us feel better about ourselves or to somehow determine if we measure up.

To be honest, comparing myself to others doesn’t make me feel better – never has, never will.  For one thing, the comparisons are never accurate.

Take comparing our morality, for example.  Either I compare all of my flaws to other people’s virtues or vice versa.  It’s always an apples to oranges kind of thing and either leads me to self-loathing or arrogance, neither of which are attractive qualities.

It’s easy to stack ourselves up against mass murderers, embezzlers and drug dealers and come out looking good.  When we compare ourselves to Mother Teresa and Billy Graham, we usually wind up feeling lousy.    Of course the Bible only challenges us to compare ourselves with a holy God and who wants to do that?

But it’s not only morality comparisons that come up short.  I’ve also noticed when I compare my possessions with others, it’s never a fair deal.  I always compare myself to people who have more than me.  I would much rather compare my bank account to someone living in the big brick house down the road instead of the guy living under an overpass.  This always leads me to envy instead of thankfulness.

Don’t even get me started on comparing our appearance to others.  We usually only see other people when they’re fixed up and looking their best, while we’re stuck seeing ourselves first thing in the morning every single day.  How is that a fair comparison?

The fact is, good or bad, all I have is me and the life I’ve been given.   At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone is better or worse off than me, I’m still stuck being me. Other people’s circumstances don’t change mine.

The Bible emphasizes our uniqueness and says that each of us is a one-of-a kind masterpiece created individually by a loving Father in heaven.  It’s kind of hard to compare one-of-a-kind masterpieces to each other because well, that’s what being one-of-a-kind is all about.

Instead of comparing ourselves to others maybe we should spend more time comparing ourselves to ourselves.  Are we growing, changing and improving over time?  Are we becoming more generous, loving and selfless or are we going the other direction?   Maybe instead of comparing myself to older celebrities I should compare myself to the younger version of me.

And if I don’t like what I see?  Well, there’s a God who can help me be more like Him at 41 than I was at 40.   By 50, I should really be cooking.  By 60?  Watch out world!

I think that’s what make growing older as you walk with God so much fun.  There’s plenty of grace for yesterday and a better version of you in the making for tomorrow.  What better birthday present could you possibly need?

Thanksgiving Challenge Day 9

This is the ninth in a series of short posts between now and Thanksgiving I’m writing to establish a habit of daily thankfulness.

I’m thankful to have grown up in a family that does birthdays big. It feels so good to have your life celebrated in a significant way and so much fun to do it for the people you love. This week my wife and I are neck deep in putting together my daughter’s sixth birthday, an event of epic proportions. So good to celebrate God’s precious gift of life.

Thank You for birthdays and that I grew up in a family that did them right. Thank you for my girls and the fun of celebrating their lives!

A Triple Espresso of Encouragement

The girl at Starbucks didn’t even know me, but she gave me one of the best birthday gifts of the day.

I begin every birthday at Starbucks, taking some time to journal over coffee and celebrate my birthday with God. This year I happened to be on the other side of town at a cafe I never visit.

I mentioned to the barista that it was my birthday, because I was supposed to get some free coffee, but she was a little confused about the process so I ended up paying for it myself.  No big deal.

The college girl who was preparing my drink overheard the whole thing, and when I went to pick up my coffee, she’d written two words in big looping cursive letters.  Happy Birthday.

It made my day. I think it got me because I wasn’t expecting it.  It’s awesome when your friends and family wish you happy birthday, but when a total stranger does it, it catches you off guard.

It made me think about how much “Happy Birthday” really means to me.

My friend Jen sent me a text that said, “HaPpY BiRtHdAy!!  I’m glad you were born.  Hope you feel extra loved today.”  I think that gets at the heart of it. We’re glad you were born.  You matter.  You life counts.

People need to hear that every day.  We live in a world that chews us up and spits us out.  Life is hard.  It’s easy to feel forgotten.  “Happy Birthday” reminds us we’re not.

I wonder how we could say, “Happy Birthday” to people the other 364 days of the year.  What kind of a difference could we make if we looked for one person each day and found a way to tell them that their life counts?

It doesn’t have to be much, just a text, a hug, or maybe just some old-fashioned words of encouragement over a free cup of coffee.

A tall dose affirmation with a double shot of kindness hits the spot every time.

©Jason Byerly 2011