My birthday is in April, and I look forward to it with excitement as God has given me another day, another year to live, to breathe in all that life has to offer. But there is also a little dread in anticipation of my birthday. I think of how old I am getting, and of how much I wish I could take back, how much I will never be able to experience. I think of all the time I will not get back. And about how closer I come to my mortality. Birthdays can truly be a mixed bag of blessing and lamentation for me.
There is, however, another day which I look forward to without trepidation. The past three Novembers have reframed my thinking about birthdays and times of remembrance and reflection. You see, on November 4, 2012, All Saints Sunday, I was baptized in a small, rural Episcopal church in Virginia. Surrounded by family and new friends, I was given grace. I was made clean indeed. I made a vow, a covenant with the God who saved me countless times that I will never know and many times when the eyes of my soul were open to behold the miracles of grace. On that day, I acknowledged, for perhaps the first time ever, that I was powerless and that God could be my only salvation. I fell into the drops of water as the priest sprinkled them over me, just as I had fallen into the grace-filled, divine flow of life.
I acknowledged that day something I already knew: I was powerless. Powerless to overcome alcohol. Powerless to overcome the paralyzing fear and anxiety that kept me from living abundantly. Powerless to accept love and help from those around me, from those who loved me. Powerless to the need to control everything and everyone in my life. That is, I realized I was powerless without the help of God.
On that day, I knew that God was working in me, showing me the things, as the Book of Common Prayer says, "necessary for my salvation." At my baptism, I promised to walk humbly with my God, knowing that I could fall, but trusting that God would pick me up.
And so each year, on November 4th, I recall that glorious day, my spiritual birthday, with gratitude and joy. I recall the friendship God made in me. I remember the promises I made, and marvel at the promises God made to me, which I don't truly understand. I remember the man I used to be, this time with mercy, instead of rigid criticism and regret. I remember the feeling of that water on my forehead, and the cleansing that I felt as sins were put away. I remember how far I have come since that day, and look to the present moment with gladness and mindfulness to the hope of tomorrow.