There's something about birthday cards that make me want to dropkick my birthday in the face. Cards stress me out. Make me cry. Make me mean to my husband. Make me impatient with my students.
They have the ability to rob my birthday of the celebration I'd love for it to be. Right now my eyes are on fire just thinking about how frustrated and consumed I feel when I open my birthday cards every year---the guy wearing pink head phones across from me probably thinks I'm at this coffee shop against my own will based on my facial expressions.
I forget to prepare myself for it every year too. When I see the first of many birthday cards in the mail, fear sets in and a nasty poison injects itself into my veins. It's probably similar to that feeling Bruce Banner gets when he feels the Hulk ripping out of his own body--- he just needs the right kind of trigger and BAM, monster unleashed. Hulk smash.
Why do I dread birthday cards?
I open those cards and have a total disregard for the meaning behind the card or the person who sent it and I'm overcome by an onslaught of covetous thoughts--- how much money did I get? How am I going to spend it? What, on my list of things I want to buy, will this cover? Why couldn't they have just given me a little bit more? Oh yeah, who is this fifty dollars from anyway?
Bleh, it's so ugly. I become my very own resentment-filled-greed-monster-Stacie-hulk........and I've never really liked how I look in green. I have a feeling some of you know how I feel--- I get the same feeling when I open cards at Christmas.
You know you've felt bad in the past for not even stopping to read the bible Verse and prayer your mom wrote out to encourage you, because all you were looking for was a "FIFTEE DOLLAH BEEL" (Goonies reference). In that moment, you've never looked more like Smeagol fondling the ring right before he falls into mount doom.
Money. It's my slippery slope. My track to Hulk. My selfish Smeagol. It's my own personal golden calf I'm willing to stop all the rest of life for when I'm not on guard. I find myself wanting to spend money on everything. I want everything. Receiving money leads me, not to a decision, but to coveting everything I can't afford. You can ask Brett, when people give me money, it can lead me to fall into a day long depression or little kid temper tantrum... because I have money, but not enough.
I actually found myself so frustrated and angry about the money I received on my birthday, discontentment was seeping into other areas of my life: My job. My husband. My apartment. My blog. My dreams. It's ironic how my heart was so unsettled, thirsting for everything everyone else had.
Here's an ironic question I'm just going to leave right here in the middle of this post: Even if I was given all of what I wanted, would I be completely fulfilled in life?
I'm literally fascinated by the Hulk's description on Wikepedia (my proudest resource?), because it's such a strong metaphor for how I feel: "Hulk is the alter ego of Bruce Banner, a socially withdrawn and emotionally reserved physicist who physically transforms into the Hulk under emotional stress and other specific circumstances at will or against it; these involuntary transformations lead to many complications in Banner's life. When transformed, the Hulk often acts as a disassociated personality separate from Banner. Over the decades of Hulk stories, the Hulk has been represented with several different personalities based on Hulk and Banner's fractured psyche, ranging from mindless savage to brilliant warrior, and Banner has taken control of the Hulk's form on occasion."
The amazing part about grace is that I am given an out. I'm given an anecdote to my Hulk greed. I don't have to blow up into a big green guy who somehow manages to keep his pants on the entire movie. I don't have to even try on my own to control myself. This was my moment of grace:
A few mornings after my birthday, I was in the middle of breakfast---my eyes were staring empty out the window and I was bubbling with hate for what I've been given in life. I glanced over at the card my mom gave me and actually started reading it. And I started to tear up:
"You are a source of unending joy to the both of us- just as you are to our God. My prayer is that you'd look forward to the next year (like Paul) with "eager expectations and hope" (Phil. 1:20), shedding the dried up skin of fear and doubt. Love, Mom"
Her prayer for me was so healing and convicting. It was everything I needed to read.
I like that about God....He catches our eye in the thick of our selfishness- right in the middle of frustrations and hate and eggs and toast--- because He loves us and has so much more for us than fear, doubt, emptiness, hate, and resentment. He so gently reminded me He's given me so many more reasons to celebrate life and all that He HAS given me, than reasons to hate where I'm at and what I don't have. I can't reach for life eagerly and expectantly when greed is holding me back. But God has invaded my life in all the best ways possible to let me know my journey with Him is so much more valuable than anything I could ever want.
I'm obviously in a very long learning process with all of this Hulk-i-tude, and at Christmas you can bet I'll be a mess of prayer before I open my Christmas cards--but my goal is to simply trust God with what I find in those cards and to thank and rejoice in those who went out of their way to give me something of theirs. My goal is to invite God into that card-opening moment because He's the one who created the sweet process of giving and celebrating. My goal is to surrender my greed and control to Him. My goal is to celebrate what He HAS given me.