Yesterday was my birthday. Typically, people enjoy their birthdays, I think. In recent years I have been increasingly becoming quite the birthday party-pooper. I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is that makes me feel so un-festive on October 1st. There could be a bunch of reasons, and perhaps many of them work together to make me a little bit gloomy and highly introspective. I feel a combination of wanting to huddle up in a ball behind the washer and dryer like some sickly cat, and wanting people to gather around me and make me feel loved. I endure it with a relatively normal look on my face. I do enjoy the love that people show me, for sure though.
One of the things I’ve dealt with over the last couple years is the knowledge that I’m not getting any younger. When I was younger I dreamed that I would accomplish all manner of amazing things. These weren’t just selfish ambitions, but godly Kingdom goals too. But now the older I get, I see people around me who are my role models, and I realize that by my age, they had already accomplished much more than I. Some of them are now even younger than I am. It is starting to feel like that moment in a football game where you realize that there just isn’t enough time to score the three touchdowns you need in order to win, even if you keep the other side from doing anything. You start to have those thoughts of forced turnovers and onside kicks, but you also really wonder if it is all possible. Yeah, I know that I’m being overly dramatic, but I already told you that I’m in that sort of mood. It is my birthday. Indulge me a little.
When I got home from Barnes and Noble, Peichi was waiting for me with some dinner and a mixed drink that she had made, and cupcakes she had just baked to top it all off. She is very good to me sometimes. I felt loved.
As I was eating, she pulled out a milk carton. I’m lactose intolerant, which means that I can only drink lactose-free milk that just happens to cost twice as much as regular milk. She showed me the expiration date, a day in late August, a whole month ago. I’m bad with those kinds of things. I’ll be in the grocery store and see something on sale, and thinking that my frugal spouse will be proud of me, I’ll buy two. The problem starts when I forget to actually eat or drink said product. I’ll put it in the fridge. It will slowly move to the back as I reach for other things and just put them in front. Two months later, she’ll pull out an expired milk carton, half full of milk, half full of a green ecosystem complete with Greenpeace activists demanding it be declared a protected environment.
I smiled nonchalantly and continued to eat. The date stared back at me, boring a hole in my forehead. As I ate, I realize that sometimes I feel a bit like that milk carton. I look back on my year and realize that some of who I am has just sat on the shelf. Some of my gifts have just not been used.
Just like that milk, I have an expiration date. We all do. It isn’t known, but it is definitely stamped on our foreheads in some ink we can’t see, but it is indelible. We are also filled up with gifts, dreams, passions, and all manner of good stuff. When we can’t use these in the way God intended, they just sit there and slosh around inside of us. I think that is why Proverbs 13:12 says “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” I was meant for those hopes, gifts, and passions to be used for God and His kingdom.
I don’t believe that I’m sitting on the shelf, but as I sat on my birthday I realized that I have so much more to give. God put things in me that I want to be used for Him this year. I can’t put the blame for this on anyone but myself. The possibilities are endless, and ultimately any blame for my shelf-ishness (see I just made a ridiculous pun) is my own. But I know I don’t want things in me to sit on the shelf for another year turning green. I never know when time for me, just like it did for that milk, may have passed. -Ryan