Today is Chef’s birthday, the single most anxiety producing, shame infused day of the year for me. See what I did there making it all about me? Our opposite natures show themselves most vividly when an opportunity to give gifts arises. I avoid all mention of my birthday, I prefer the shadows to the limelight. Chef never fails to make a big deal of my birthday, against my desires. The enjoyment I show during the event is interpreted as confirmation that his way is ultimately the best. Then, in a ploy I can only consider sabotage, or maybe he is trying to ease the burden for me, every year on his birthday he is either working or he has smudged up the calendar with outside events. He makes it damn near impossible to celebrate his birthday in like fashion. I know from reading “The 7 Love Languages” that we give what it is we hope to receive. Thus I know he wants a party, I want to allow the day to slide into the next. Each year I struggle over the perfect gift, his tastes are quite exact. I struggle with making a cake (is he preparing for a marathon or off sweets this year?) or finding the best meal to offer up as my gift. I just seem to fall short and each year gets worse as failure becomes my norm and the anxiety grows. I know this is not all about me but trying to measure up and show my love sets my insides to quivering and my outsides to frowning. Frustrated thoughts float freely in my mind: Why can’t he plan his own party, he is so much better at it, Why should I even try, I am going to fail.
I recognize that this is how I approach all of my most important relationships, especially with the One who gave me a birthday in the first place. The problem I think is in the very construct of wanting to show love to gain love. That isn’t pure unconditional love, no agape there. That is a contract, an exchange of services. Grace does not live in those deeds. Trying to be worthy, tying a gift or a meal to my value, I will never succeed. How can any material item encapsulate my fondness for his gentleness with our grandson, my appreciation for the care he shows in feeding me, my hope for more walks and quiet talks and years of watching him from across a room as he laughs? The parts of him that I love are entwined with his soul, his very charismatic nature that draws all the energy in a room, that cause the light to shine just a bit brighter over him. I ease back into the edges of the celebration, finding my comfort in his joy, I get warmth from the light he brings. I am reminded of click-bait stories that say did you know that this celebrity is married to that no-name person, the one no one has ever heard of or seen, yes, married to HIM! I often wonder about that “not in show business spouse, how she or he copes with never being as adoring as all the fans, how do they share their love in a way that counts?
Grace. I believe grace is the key, the central point that makes it all gel. With grace God tells me that I am good enough, that I will never be deserving but I will always be worthy. I cannot gift my way into a love affair with God, He has everything already. My efforts will come up short every time. So what is it He desires of me? Nothing but my all. And when I offer up a kindness to one of His other children, He smiles and says well done and sprinkles grace filled sunlight on my shoulders, telling me it is enough that I showed up, that I am trying. My mother’s words often echo louder than God’s, I am learning to hear Him more. My sense of not being quite good enough was cemented when I proudly brought my report card to my mother, sure I had achieved greatness and worth in her eyes. Showing her my A’s, waiting for the praise, I was destroyed when she asked why I didn’t get A+’s. I know God is not expecting such perfection, I hope my Chef doesn’t either. When I give to be evaluated, I am no longer giving of me, of my heart, out of rejoicing for the recipient.
To that end, this year, for my Chef’s birthday, I selected silly ridiculous gifts that may completely miss the mark. Hoping his sense of humor will rule the day, I think I selected gifts that will bring out his smile and cause his eyes to light up. If I totally bomb though, rest assured I have 364 more days out of the spotlight to really show how I feel. Join me in celebrating him today, won’t you, and pray he is filled with grace as he walks through this day. When you are an A+, the rest of us B’s need forgiveness.
Happy Birthday Rock Star, I am blessed to stand in your shadow.