Growing up, birthdays were the best days. For one reason… I got to pick the restaurant. There were no worries about what my siblings and parents thought. No quiet whisper of guilt brought on by Oldest Child Syndrome. It was the one day of the year I could put my hopes, dreams and desires out there in the form of a Chili’s Awesome Blossom and feel like, you know what, I am going to be loved in return. I remember the day, pretty vividly in fact. One of those glorious days that rolled around on the calendar and here I was, restaurant choice in hand. I went for it… “Agatucci’s,” I said closing my eyes and wincing. I opened them slowly to see what I sort of expected. They were nonplussed to put it nicely; horrified and passive aggressively un-affirming. But we went. It was my freakin’ birthday after all. The car ride was awkward. The dinner conversation was awkward. I was doing what I do best in trying to make sure everyone was happy in that tiny booth with jokes about my dinner choice and stories that usually got a laugh. But nothing. Maybe Biggie was right. Birthdays were the worst days.
I think our relationship with God can be seen through this lens. If I put myself out there too much, show my hand too much, express my deepest aches and desires, what will I get in return? A sense of disappointment for even asking? Scraps from the feast we long to partake in? So what do we do… we give with clenched hands and wincing eyes. We hold back our deepest selves from the Source of our deepest self in fear that we will lose the little bit of identity that we think we own.
This Sunday, the Gospel rocked me. It gave me a glimpse of the full nature of God in three short paragraphs.
He is healing. So much so that entire towns are after him.
He is teaching. Everywhere he goes he takes with him those few people he called to walk with him at every turn.
He is praying. Beautifully and profoundly, his closest friends find him early in the morning, in an intimate place, praying and tell him, surely with a sense of urgency in their voices, “everyone is looking for you!”
But to me, Jesus showed the deepest identity of God is found in winning his mission one person at a time. They take him to see Simon’s mother in-law who lay ill with a fever. He enters the house and her bedside is the first place he goes. The beauty of this passage is not just that Jesus heals, it is how Simon’s mother in-law receives this love. With a posture of receptivity and with what little strength she may have possessed, as Jesus reaches out to grasp her hand, she brings hers up to meet his. Jesus waits to give her the fullness of her life with that intimate and affirming grasp of the hand and she gives the fullness of herself in response. A beautiful challenge indeed. To first trust that the fullness of God is given and then to give ourselves in return. His healings were not just to show the power of his life, but even more so to show the power of our faith in his promise.
So go ahead, its your birthday. Live like it. Get that Awesome Blossom. Trust the Lord with your whole being. Bring him your deepest aches and be ready to receive the overwhelming gift of the fullness of your life in return. And like Simon’s mother in-law, get up and immediately bring that love to Jesus and the world.