Happy Birthday to Me

Today I turn 57. I was born in 1957. It’s a 57 kind of year for me.

I don’t like getting old, but I refuse to pretend it’s not happening. And I refuse to be ashamed of what may be my greatest credit. My life doesn’t begin and end with temporal existence. I believe that, “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day,” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NASB). In this inspired statement God doesn’t deny the sad facts of aging and death. In fact, He puts them in the most graphic and despairing of terms. Can you imagine if The United States Special Commission on Aging changed its name to The United States Special Commission on Decaying? The seniors would storm the white house en masse, flailing walkers and canes, demanding a less derogatory label.

But along with its realism, the verse places the unavoidable negatives of our death-bound existence in the context of a powerful spiritual hope. “Our inner man is being renewed day by day.” What? You mean something about me is getting better instead of worse? In Jesus I actually improve with age, like a Martin guitar’s time-mellowed wood gives a better resonance? Or like an old, beat-up towel actually absorbs more water? Or like a 57 year-old woman might, through an ongoing inner renewal, become more like Jesus each passing day?

While recent studies confirm that certain kinds of memory as well as processing speed and other brain strengths do fade with the years, some things get better. Certain kinds of reasoning ability and intelligences that accumulate with experience actually improve, or at least have the potential for improving.

But beyond all the brain science, I’m interested in how character improves throughout life. What is this “inner man” that is “being renewed day by day”? This esothen (in the Greek) refers to the inner life of a human being. And it needs renewal. In sharp contrast to the humanistic idea of a reservoir of goodness deep inside each person, Jesus said, “For from esothen, out of the heart of men, proceed evil,” (Mark 7:21). The renewal of the esothen, then, is the rebirth experience Jesus put forth to Nicodemus in hushed tones one moonlit night somewhere around Jerusalem. In order to improve characterologically, we need direct, divine, dramatic intervention. We must be born again.

My greatest fear in aging is not losing my memory or my wit. It will happen sooner or later. My greatest fear is becoming grouchy, grumpy, unloving and unloveable. Cognitive decline can rob an individual of the ability to “put on” on a good personality, but character resides at a more foundational level of a person. You can’t fake a good character. But a heart transformed day after day by the Holy Spirit can stay soft with love and grace long after the mind has decayed. I want that transformation, and I want it now and forever.

And when I’m not 57, but 87 (if I live that long), perhaps in the late stages of dementia, I want to be like the sweet old lady who kissed her daughter and said, “I don’t know who you are, but I love you.”

You’re off the hook. You don’t have to buy me a thing for my birthday. This is what I want: to be born again.

18 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me

  1. Nancy J Adams

    ” he not busy being born is busy dying.” Bob Dylan. If we need to die daily, then I would think we need to be born again daily.. Good thoughts, Jen, beautifully written. It must be hard to be humble with so many talents, but it also gives you the ability to be more grateful to and give more praise to God. Happy Birthday, Jennifer–May The Lord use you to bring many souls to righteousness–the greatest gift of all.

  2. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer Post author

    Thanks for posting, Nancy! Love that Dylan quote.

  3. Nicole Parker

    I want to keep learning. I just love the gospel! I keep drinking it in and being amazed by it. And the good news is, God has promised that when I get really, really old (like a thousand or so), I can still be doing that awesome thing I love most–learning to love Him and love others more. Because that’s the whole law of heaven.

  4. Jack Marti

    Ah, but I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now. It’s all a matter of perspective. I knew so much more when I was young and didn’t realize how much there was to know. It was much easier, I think, to remember things when I was young, because there wasn’t as much to remember. Therefore, I could delude myself into thinking I had a remarkable memory. Now I have more than 57 and a half years of experience to remember, and I can scarcely remember what I had for breakfast this morning! Then, in the scheme of eternity, I am barely new-born, and you are younger than I am! And yet, you may well have been born again before me, and so are my elder sister… Happy birth anniversary, Jennifer!

  5. Jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    Nicole I love it! I’m a lot closer to a thousand years than you, so when I get there, I’ll tell you what it’s like.

  6. Jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    Nicole I love it! I’m a lot closer to a thousand years than you, so when I get there, I’ll tell you what it’s like. I appreciate your enthusiasm!

  7. Jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    Jack- there you go, misquoting Bob Dylan. Yes, I agree the hard drive gets full. It’s not that I’m losing my short term memory! Wait, what were we talking about?

  8. April Worf

    Oh to give glory to God as I age!
    If losing cognitive function is my lot…may i not dishonor the one who gave His ALL for me by being unkind and unloving.
    This is my greatest concern.
    Happy Birthday, Jennifer Jill!

  9. Your daughter Kimmy

    I want to be happy and loving. I want to be a little old lady who’s a lightbeam of joy! You’re a very loving old lady ( lol jk) keep it up

  10. Jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    The loving old lady loves you, sunbeam.

  11. Tiffany Brown

    I hope to be pleasant and generous.

  12. Tammie Michelle

    When I am elderly, I want to continue to be loving & kind…and real (to myself & to others). 🙂 And I want to stay adventurous & spontaneous! Vivre la vie! 🙂

  13. Jan

    Happy Birthday to you! And many, many more, as in eternity.
    Love always,
    Jan in Georgia

  14. Jan

    My wish is to be eternally young, vibrant, healthy and joyful. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

  15. Tom

    JJ,

    Happy Birthday! You and Carol are the same age, both born in 57, and I would remind you of the Heinz commercials–that there is a lot of variety left for your years to come! I think that is an anti-aging prescription…don’t get stuck in a rut, keep your options open, and have a sense of wonder about the future. I too would like to age GRACE–fully and be full of it!

    Tom K

  16. Jennifer JIll Schwirzer

    Thanks, Tom! People keep mentioning Heinz–I should have included that. I had a dog named Heinz because he had 57 varieties of dog. Say hi to Carol and be well.

  17. marilyn ravina

    I just read that you had a birthday last month. I Love the scripture of inwardly being renewed. This is what we are promised. However, I admit that growing older, along with life’s health and aging issues takes a lot of courage and acceptance…and getting grumpy is definitely not the path I want to be on. I hope my choice and will are strong enough to stay connected to the vine and rejoice with all those little blessings. I used to think we were going to walk the planet doing great things like raising the dead, healing lepers, proclaiming the Year of the Lord and the soon return of Jesus. Until that power has really revived me, I am learning to be content with the things I can do, and navigate around the people who are causing more rifts and strife than necessary. My blessings are often memories too…even though I’m not 89 or about to die, I recall the days when our little flock, flocked to the city to warn the people of crisis in a way that was so loving, caring and nurturing that it didn’t cause fear, but emanated love and fruitfulness. I miss the experience but not going to the city–just the joy of winning souls in such a wonderful way. So many amazing days back then. My days now seem drab and lonely, but I will plant my garden and pray and praise Him until I am totally transformed into a fuller new creature!!! Glad He didn’t get tired of us!!! Love you Jen, and always appreciate your thoughts, your songs, and your faith.

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