Sunday, March 16, 2014

Map Reading on Birthdays

March 16, 2014

Dear Friends,

“Where are you?” God asked Adam and Eve. 
Then, going to the heart of the matter, God asked, “What is this thing that you have done?” 

Many people do not treat Biblical texts seriously under any circumstances. Curiously enough, however, most people spend a life-time asking “Where am I?” and, in a haunting echo of Eden, questioning, “What is this thing that I have done?”

In life, these questions manage to get themselves asked whether consciously we decide to consider them or not. 

For the most part, neither these questions nor their answers are negotiable. What we can—and sometimes do—however, is pretend that the questions are irrelevant, or attempt to copy someone else’s answer for ourselves, although neither option works well.

One reason for this is that birthdays persistently confront us with an identification firmly anchored in the context of the past.

“Where am I?”—birthdays document the fact that we are a year further along life’s journey. 

“What is this thing that I have done?”  Ah, yes, and in the old Bard’s timeless comment, there’s the rub for us all.

What do we do in the future with what the past confronts us—the knowing that cannot be un-known and the doing that cannot be un-done?

We cannot go back. This is life’s non-negotiable reality. But it is at the same time life’s unavoidable opportunity.

Frederick Buechner, noting that while we cannot go back, we can go forward in a new way, with a new understanding of who we are, and a new strength to draw on for what lies before us now to do.*

Thinking with you today that we get to choose whether the past serves as a prison for dreams or the unexplored potential for new understanding and new strength. 

“Where am I?” “What is this thing that I have done?”

Thinking with you today that reality says I may (indeed, I must) choose how the answer to those questions shapes the tomorrows of my life.

See you next week.


* Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life (Compiled and Edited by George Connor) New York: HarperCollins, 1992, p. 70.



  2. Dear Gay, I also wish you a delight celebration of your birthday. Save some cake and ice cream for me!