As I was looking on my Face Book a few weeks ago on my birthday, I saw an essay entitled Happy Birthday to Me. It is written by my good friend, Pastor Gregory Lan Ijiwola. Pastor Gregory has a great church in Chicago, Illinois. He is Nigerian by birth and one of the finest examples of a Christian I have ever met. He and his wife Debo have invested their lives in building a great community transforming church in the south Chicago area. If you know Africans, they have an amazing way to capturing and putting into words ideas and concepts that are unexpected. Most times, we westerners just wouldn’t think of saying it the way they do.
As I read the essay, I was stunned by the authenticity, integrity, humility and even audacity of his thoughts. Happy Birthday to Me. That’s certainly not self-deprecating. Usually others sing Happy Birthday to you. But Gregory has captured and articulated something here that we can learn and grow from. Here is his essay.
“I have failed and have succeeded. I have fallen and have risen. I have lacked and had plenty. I have loved and struggled to love. I have dreamed and have doubted. I have laughed and have wept. I have feared and have dared. I have fought and I have reconciled. I have broken and I have mended. I have friended and offended. I have been sad and have been joyful. I have despaired and I have hoped. I have been helped and I have helped. I have lost and I have gained. I have given and I have withheld. I have been cold and I have been hot. I have gone and I have stayed. I have complained and I have praised. I have been foolish and I have been wise.
Through it all, I am alive. I am loved. I am saved. I am on a journey. I am not quitting, stopping or meandering. I am Gregory Lan Ijiwola. Always pushing forward. Always dreaming. Always rising. Always advancing. Always daring. Always hoping. Always grateful. Happy Birthday to me!”
There you go, wasn’t that refreshing? Happy Birthday to me. Someone out there needs Pastor Gregory’s essay today. You have been through all kinds of challenges and trials. Some of those challenges and wounds were from choices you made. Some were not. You have been up, down and all around. You might feel lower than a snake’s belly right now. But you are here. You are alive. You aren’t perfect. You make mistakes. You have offended and been offended. You’ve been both wrong and right. That’s just life.
Jesus said it’s inevitable that stumbling blocks will come in this life.
There will be trials. Jesus also said that blessed is the one who is not overcome by what God is doing in the trials in our lives. Someone once said, “Mountain tops inspire leaders, valleys mature them.” Welcome to maturity. The idea is to grow up before we grow old. Aspire to inspire before you expire.
Pastor Gregory is saying that while He falls down, He gets up. He recovers. He overcomes.
He will never be perfect. He gets better. He realizes a setback paves the way for a comeback. That’s called life. Excrement happens in life. In fact, the only people who don’t create excrement are dead people. It’s a bad sign when there is no poop in a stable. It means nothing is alive. That’s not an excuse. It’s reality.
Maybe it’s time to celebrate who you are and Whose you are.
But not in a self-absorbed, “It’s all about me,” ‘selfie’ way. That’s destructive and vain. Quit trying to be somebody else. Why? Everybody else is taken. Maybe it’s time to learn from your mistakes or mistakes others have made toward you. You can’t go forward if you are always looking backward. That is what forgiveness, grace and mercy are all about. Life is not an event, it’s a process.
So, no matter when your birthday is, today, right now, humbly but confidently say… “Happy Birthday to Me!”
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