I have always loved my birthday. I get excited weeks in advance, thinking about that day. What can I say? I love people to make a fuss about me, and my birthday is the one day where I know that will happen.
This year, however, is different. My birthday is a week from today, and at best, I am feeling ambivalent about it. It’s not because I’m turning 32 and don’t want to feel older; I actually like the idea of being 32 (I like even numbers), and I don’t feel old.
So what’s the problem? The problem is last year.
Last year on my birthday, I was sick with what I thought was a urinary tract infection. (If only…) I stayed home from work and was miserable and uncomfortable. I could barely walk without feeling intense pain. The very next day, I had a CT scan of my abdomen that revealed an inflamed colon. That was the beginning of a truly terrible next few weeks, culminating in an admission to the hospital and my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.
Whereas before I associated cake and presents and love with my birthday, now I think about illness. And while I know it’s completely irrational, I have had this growing fear that I will end up sick again on my birthday. I have only truly felt well since August, and I suppose I am worried that these past two months are a fluke and that it’s only a matter of time before I find myself making dozens of trips to the bathroom all over again.
I don’t want that. I really, really don’t want that.
The thing is, I am not guaranteed anything. I could wake up tomorrow and be sick. Or I could go five years without experiencing another flare. There is no way to know, which is both infuriating and reassuring. It’s infuriating because I love to plan, and I can’t plan a flare. It’s reassuring because there is no point in being racked with fear and anxiety over something I can’t control.
In fact, I am not in control at all. My life is not my own but is in the hands of my Creator, who has proven Himself as a faithful caretaker over and over again. As the song goes, “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?…His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
Though I have let fear take root, I have to choose joy instead. I have to trust that no matter what the next year brings, God will see me through it. He saw me through this year, the hardest of my life, and He promises to never leave me nor forsake me. So next week when I celebrate 32 years of life, I will choose to be thankful instead of fearful, hopeful instead of anxious. That’s the gift I will give myself.