It’s my birthday today ..again!. Another year has passed. So imperceptibly and quickly, the days have come and gone. But I have to honestly say it has been one of the happiest personal anniversaries yet – as I look across the bench, the juices start to flow, at the sight of a fresh, home-baked, treat: I just can’t wait for Hazel’s lovingly prepared, delicious, calorie-bursting, sumptuous, “Victoria Sponge” cake.
After an early rise, with 2-hr prep for lectures – and a larger than usual mug of coffee – I drove up to College to be greeted by smiling, singing, students. After four hours of class, with some exhilarating thoughts, I had the pleasure of hosting another new Prof for lunch – then I proceeded to open-up some well-wisher cards, before reading my Facebook messages, and getting my darling-daughter’s WhatsApp call and gift (a perfect T-shirt fit – exactly like my request).
I put on my hiking boots, then headed-off for a walk – what crunchy, golden, russet leaves and what an even crisper, autumn, breeze! Another year older, I thought, as I started down the street – Psalm 90 popped into my head as I pondered our Everlasting Lord.
My meditations moved, next, onto Psalm 102 – here, in this song, the prophet stares his own human frailty straight in the face:
3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. 4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. 5 Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. 6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; 7 I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. 8 All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. 9 For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink, 10 because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. 11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. Psalm 102:3-11.
Emaciated and faint, this lonely insomniac chokes down tears with bread, as he fades like scorched, dried grass. With a crushing sense of finitude, he plaintively asks Yahweh that, if its stones are dear to God, he might, in mercy, pity the destitute dead-dust of His Church.
12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations -13 You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come. 14 For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust. 15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. 16 For the LORD builds up Zion; he appears in his glory – Psalm 102:12-16
Now in mid-course, with a total break-down in health, the Psalmist lifts his chin, amid all the flux of life, to His never-changing King.
23 He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. 24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days– you whose years endure throughout all generations!” 25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end. 28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you – Psalm 102:23-28.
Had he not stretched out the expanse and laid foundations of earth? Then, even if he views decay all around, His Maker stays the same as His comfort, Age-to-Age! Soon, He is sure, God will lay aside this fallen world now long overdue for change. With David long dead, he seeks Messiah’s Life (Hebrews 1:8-13).
To a crown with a frosting of grey, this Psalter prayer brings birthday cheer – if I have one less year on earth, I have no less days to live in (or with) Christ. All by sovereign grace, apart from a single nanograin of merit in my flesh, the Mediator who died, was raised, and reigns, is all my glory, joy and peace.
It makes me want to sing “My Lord Jesus shed His blood in my place”: forlorn, forsaken and faint, His was a grueling, mid-life, crisis on the Cross. Sleep loss and sorrow was my lot assigned to Him. Hung out to die, skin sagged from ribs – Jesus suffered all this to bring me and many sons to the world of eternal youth.
So, if knees and shoulders creek, or dim eyes see even less – or if sickness attacks your flesh – sleep safely upon the pillow of the Savior: your hope in Christ is bright. And if you are 1 year older, and perhaps a little wiser, receive this happy greeting, in the Name of our Lord Jesus, who lives from Age to Age.