Happy Birthday to You!

Last night, I completed my 43rd year on the planet.

I’m disgusted.

No, I take that back.  I’m moderately disappointed.  I thought I’d be more than I am, after this long.  To quote Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail, “I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

I still can’t watch the scene from that movie where she closes her little store without tears running down my face.  I’ve had to do that, to kill something I loved because to keep it alive was to cause it suffering to no purpose.  I’ve survived almost nine years in the mortgage industry, but our modest and occasional successes have not really filled in the holes left by the much more frequent times things were bad.  We’ve done okay.  I call it “moderately unsuccessful”.  We have done good, quality work and helped a lot of people that wouldn’t otherwise have been served, but we’ve never managed to make a real success of it.  Very recently, the good work I thought I was doing, in an area I thought I was good at, turned out not to be valued by people I consider my friends.  That hurt a good deal, and still does.

Most everything else in my life is better than that, but again, I’m so far short of excellence in so many areas.  The fact is that I haven’t even reached for excellence.  I treat my wife well, and we love each other, but couldn’t I be better?  I’m a good father to my many children, but every softball season I’m reminded that I haven’t had a catch with any of my kids…ever.  In a thousand little ways, practically every day, I’ve put them second and third and eighteenth.  I pray, but not as hard as I could.  I read the scriptures every day, but they slide past my eyes without impression.  I write, but I don’t dare to try doing it for money.  What if I’m not as good as I think I am?

As I consider this, though, I’m reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis, one of my favorites: The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.

Now, I find myself in the presence of God quite a lot.  I invite Him here, and I try to welcome Him when He comes.  My wife and children, and so many of my friends, are among His greatest warriors, and their presence invites His.  So I see myself as a small, dirty object extremely often.  But then, the truth of it is that if we are honest, we all do.  We all know we’re not what we could be.  We all know we could be doing better than we are.

The key for me today and all days is to forget myself altogether.  Since I can’t stop myself from thinking – I’ve tried, and it only works when I’m watching Michael Bay movies – I had better get in the habit of thinking about you instead.

So happy birthday to you!

5 Responses to “Happy Birthday to You!”

  • Michele Smith says:

    I would say a better movie for you to reference your life and self to is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” My prescription: Watch it. Today. With your FAMILY and snacks and lots of spilled, mashed into the floor popcorn (perhaps a few contests of “throw some into the air and try to catch it as it comes down”–but NO CHOKING ALLOWED–perhaps an age limit to the game?) and nothing else higher priority. Let the tears flow and be purged of the deceptions and subterfuge you are allowing to be embedded in your psyche in regards to your worth and impact. No one can count the impact of a single smile or hello delivered by or to the “meagerliest” of us all. If you’re going to tally your lackings, you’ve gotta tally your many eternally significant “small and simple” succeedings by which many great things have been brought to pass.

    I won’t segue into a religious discussion here, but just remind you of two important things: 1)the one perfect, never failing individual who walked this earth is on your side of the balance sheet and lives and exists to transform the numbers to your credit beyond what you can imagine 2) you don’t have to wait for the accounting and reconciling of your balance sheets for some distant point. Today is as much eternity as any other day in your existence will be. You’ve taken some knocks and all that has been allowed so that you will come to the source rather than looking elsewhere. DO IT. TODAY. No Better Day than a Birth Day to start anew with hope and confidence in a glorious reality of existence that has a firm foundation trumping the sands of the events and occupations of the daily grind! Enough already…You know it’s time to stop when you start to sound like a communist propaganda pamphlet. My best to you and yours!

  • Leslie Christofferson says:

    Amen to what Michael so eloquently said!!! My only piece of advice is to schedule ball throwing time in your calendar. That is what I have to do is schedule time to do specific things I want to accomplish, ie: family history, being with Molly and her kids, time with Klynton, time with Colton and his soon to be, etc. I have taken to actually writing it in as if it were an appointment and then I work at making it happen. Sometimes it gets cut short but, it gets me away from the time sucker TV and gets me in my relationships some where. Just know that in this part of your world you have great impact; now, in the past and I’m planning on the future as well. You are and will always be one of my heroes! Happy Day!

  • chrisjones says:

    If today is an eternity, maybe the movie we need is Groundhog Day. Which, as it happens, is one of our family favorites.

    It’s a Wonderful Life won’t happen today – we’ve just recently had a falling-out with that movie (which we will make up) – but I appreciate the suggestion. We did have an IAWL experience that forcefully reminded me of the great friends and wonderful people I know and love. That was and continues to be good for my soul.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me.

  • chrisjones says:

    And Les, you’re right. I need to do that.

  • Melanee says:

    Hi Chris! Fabulous birthday weekend from all of us here.

    I only show about 20 people’s fb updates in my newsfeed at any given time, if they have interesting things to say, and right now, you are one of those, so please forgive me for yakking at you so much. Someday you’ll get lucky and I’ll switch you out!

    Yes, forgetting ourselves is the most liberating experience in any situation. Love when I can go there.

    I had an experience not long ago, cleaning my kitchen pantry late at night. Had a spiritual download in a matter of what seemed like seconds, much in relation to the kinds of things you are discussing here. I knew it didn’t come from me, and because of that, it changed me and is still changing me.

    I should probably write about these more in depth, but I’ll share a few snippets. These ideas came to me in single sentences, and while they may sound simplistic at first glance, the worlds of understanding that came with them was cosmic for me.

    1. Life takes time and it’s okay. Associated with this phrase was “becoming takes time and it’s okay. It’s really, truly okay.” And, because we live in mortal time, with mortal bodies, there is only literally so much time we have in life to do things. It takes time to just care for our physical bodies. To prepare food and eat. To sleep. How many hours a day after that are left? And because He created us this way, and we live in this element of limited time, He knows, and understands our limitations, and doesn’t always expect from us what we expect from ourselves. Which doesn’t mean He doesn’t expect a lot, it’s just that what He expects is so much different than we supposed.

    I know this sounds simple, but this wasn’t coming from a self-help book, or even a good friend. It was coming from God directly to me. He told me that it was okay, and that I was okay, and was going to be okay, and I believed Him.

    2. Live your life TODAY. In other words, stop berating myself for everything I didn’t do in the past, and are concerned I will or won’t do in the future, and LIVE TODAY. Don’t think so much about tomorrow and my goals for the rest of my life of what I want to become. For example, if I want to read a few chapters to my girls each morning, I should only concern myself with TODAY, and read a book to them if that’s what I want to do. All I have to do is today. That’s all I have to do. Be true to myself today. Then kneel down tonight, repent, and show gratitude. Then get up the next morning and do it over. I do believe today is an eternity. Much like the Groundhog Day movie. Live it today.

    3. Give up your big moment to shine. Yeah. Didn’t expect this one. And the download for this one was huge. Doesn’t mean I won’t have shining moments, but I won’t be the one to orchestrate them, and they will come as I follow #1 and #2. I really struggle with this one, in that I don’t want to lead a mediocre life, or making excuses for taking action. I don’t want to fritter away my life with sweeping the floor. I need to write about this more. It was big, releasing, and believe it or not, still exciting.

    More too, but there you go. My birthday gift to you.

    We are all in this together, and today, we are okay. And for me, for now, that’s good enough.

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