Saturday, June 13, 2009

Birthday Presents

I'm 51 today. Got hit between the eyes with a quote from Oscar Romero:

Among the events of this week, which, of course, are many, one stands out for me with a sense of gratitude, the celebration of my birthday, through which I have understood once again that my life doesn't belong to me, but to all of you. August 21, 1977

I am a Baby Boomer. Even when my thoughts are lofty, my emotional default is, "All about me." Baby Boomers tend to value others in terms of their usefulness to our perceived needs. We do well with "support groups" but aren't very good about maintaining families, for example. When Romero says, "my life belongs to all of you," a Boomer resists. "That's soooooo codependent. Such enmeshment issues." We manage to define sacrificial commitment as dysfunction, because both sacrifice and commitment can diminish "me."

But we are wrong, from God's point of view. How fatal that our saying, "He thinks he's God's gift to (women, art, basketball, etc.)" is a put down. "God's gift" is exactly how Romero sees himself, and the potential he sees in every birth. Not an inflated ego, but a God-given array of gifts and flaws that meet others' needs and draw out their strengths. But to find that truth we have to commit to others long enough to let them shake us, hold us up to the light, unwrap and actually use us like a present placed in their hands by God. (Jesus warned about "giving pearls to pigs," so there is a time to say, "Hey, the gift is rejected and needs to go where it will be cherished and used for its God-given purpose." What I'm saying is that my generation yells "Pig!" much too soon in most cases.)

I don't have a happy, perky illustration with which to wrap this up. Romero was assassinated in 1980, and nobody's ever been brought to earthly justice for it. Yet his witness and his words continue to inspire, challenge and even change people in El Salvador and around the world. A "gift that keeps on giving?"

On this birthday, I find myself flirting with the sweet-sounding voice that says, "You could use your gifts so wonderfully if you could just have x, get away from y, and do something about z." To which Romero almost certainly would say, "No, God made you the gift of which x, y and z are in need. Happy birthday to you."


Alice C. Linsley said...

¡Feliz cumpleaƱos!

And may you enjoy many more, Father.

Wilf said...

Very many more, Fr. Tim. It was a special blessing to see you today. Go hug that non-existent wife of yours once more!

Amy said...

Beautiful post. Happy belated birthday to you!

Jill C. said...

A belated happy birthday, Tim+! It was a blessing to spend some time with you the other night and to meet your wife too. :) Thanks for showing us some of your adopted home town.

By the way, you're really not a true Boomer. We are part of "Generation Jones!" (Ask anybody born between 1946 and 1956 what they were doing when they'd heard JFK had been shot. What were you doing? You probably don't remember because you were too young. According to my mom, I was supposed to be taking a nap, but was probably playing with my dolls. ;)

TLF+ said...

Jill - great meeting Steve and you! But I do remember the news of JFK's shooting - and I very vividly remember throwing a fit because his funeral preempted morning kid shows I liked!!!!!

Amy - thank you and I enjoyed a visit to your blog. We are raising an autistic son, and you have much to say of value from your experiences of loss and sacrificial love. Many blessings on your Joyful Journey !