So, yesterday was my birthday.
For the longest time, I have had this fobia against my birthday because:
- I feel the pressure of having to do something “fun” or “outstanding” because otherwise people pity you (and suggest you need to have a boyfriend or get married so that you won’t be subject to pity.)
- I don’t like the ELI ELI ELI attention kind of attention I get. (Introvert here!)
- Many of my birthdays didn’t turn out very fun:
- When I was in elementary school, I had my birthday at Burger King and they did the piñata without me. If you know what a piñata is, and if you know what it’s like to be the birthday child who didn’t hit the piñata, you will know what it feels like.
- When I was a teenager, I planned a barbecue where I invited all of my classmates. Only three showed up.
- When I was in college, I had the most exhausting day ever, and had to cancel an outing with friends because of a class-related meeting, and the meeting got cancelled last minute.
- When I graduated college and came back home (Argentina), I wanted nice quality time with my family on my birthday because it had been about 6 years since we celebrated it together. For some reason, nobody paid attention to me until I had a meltdown (cried like a baby), and then we went out to have some quality time.
So you get the idea. My birthdays weren’t days I looked forward to. The awkward question of, “What are you gonna do on your birthday???” has always haunted me.
This year was no different. A few days before my birthday, I pondered about these things. Why does my birthday have to stress me so much? Why do I dread that normal question regarding my plans to commemorate the day I was born? Is it just because of my awful experiences? (because I did have some good ones too!)
As I asked these questions, I think the Holy Spirit incepted this thought in me, because I asked myself: Why don’t I ask God for an opportunity to serve on my birthday?
I thought it was a brilliant idea. So I prayed a one-sentence prayer:
“God, I want to serve during my birthday.”
The pressure I usually felt when my birthday approached was gone.
March 16 arrived.
The day started as usual. Wake up, go to school, and work work work. The whole day was so dynamic I literally had only five minutes to rest. But! Unlike past Eli, present Eli was not stressed. She enjoyed each class and did not over-plan. She even went ‘with the flow’.
Towards the end of the day, two of my colleagues suggested eating dinner together, to which I gratefully accepted. And we went to eat jjimdak (one of my favorite dishes) and had great conversations about all kinds of things. It was a time of encouraging one another.
After that, I went to speak at our church’s Children’s Ministry life group. (When I agreed to speak here, I didn’t realize I had agreed to do it on my birthday! So it made me smile to realize that God had provided this opportunity to serve.) Basically, I had a great time talking and listening to the Children’s Ministry teachers.
And after this, I went to the Handong bus stop, where I met an HIS student. We struck up a good conversation about various things and I felt blessed to just be able to listen.
You might think nothing striking happened. I mean, I didn’t do a grand thing or even a noticeable service, but I think God showed me that if I ask to serve, He will open the eyes of my heart to see what the heart of service is.
On the outside, you could think I had a busy, “pouring out” sort of day. But because God was so directly pouring into me, I experienced what it means to be physically tired but extremely satisfied in my spirit. I felt like I caught a glimpse of what Francis Chan meant when he said that he liked going to sleep that night knowing that he had been on cue with God (listening and obeying) throughout the whole day.
On the inside, I was swelling with joy; because yesterday was a special day where I specially made it a point to just listen to people, to pray for them on the inside, and to just enjoy the things God put before me. It’s not the jjimdak itself, or the good friendships, or the ministries, or even the HIS students, but it is a Christ-centered mindset that allowed me to enjoy and serve in all these diverse areas.
So if you ask me which was my favorite birthday and why, you know my answer. 🙂