Today is my fifteenth birthday (or what I fondly like to refer to as my quinceañera, being the Spanish-obsessed girl that I am). I don't generally like to discuss private matters on this wee blog o' mine — for one, it is far simpler for me to stick to reviewing books, since that keeps me from rambling quite so much as I would should I choose to give myself free reign — but Hannah's incredible sweet sixteen post inspired me to use this date as a way to take the focus off of myself and give it to the One that deserves it most. And after all, isn't that the true meaning of living the Christian life anyway?
The mindset of most young people in this day and age seems to be filled with such ideals as "live for the moment" and "whatever makes you happy". And though this may seem like a taboo statement, it is just as easy for Christians to fall into that rut of idealized "freedom". As inconceivable as it might sound, becoming a Christian and accepting the Lord does not grant you a complimentary bubble in which you can live your perfect-down-to-the-white-picket-fence-and-tire-swing life, free from sin and sorrow. It is just as easy for us to forget that our focus is meant to be on Jesus Christ and fall into a habit of living purely for our own enjoyment.
If anything, birthdays encourage this sort of behavior further. The natural longing inside all of us to love and be loved craves the one day of year when the attention is focused on us. And what's worse, as Hannah pointed out, we begin to think we deserve it. Whether "it" constitutes expensive gifts, huge parties, lots of attention, or all three, we want It and act as if our lives will end if we don't get It. And no, once more this does not just go out to those who aren't Believers, because we too can begin thinking of all the "good" things we've done and how we deserve a reward.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."
What was that first credential? We must what? Deny ourselves?! What sort of rule is this? How on earth am I supposed to do that?
At the core, living the Christian life is all about sacrifice: giving up yourself for the sake of others, in the same manner that Jesus gave up His life for the sake of His Bride. We are by no means deserving of this amazing grace lavished upon us, but He gives it to His children freely. That is the greatest example of true love the world will ever know, and you can't find it in a Hollywood romantic comedy or Hallmark card.
"Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down his life for His friends." — John 15:13
This isn't the recipe for the world's idea of a perfect life. In fact, most teenagers would scoff at the notion of giving yourself up for the benefit of those around you. It's a counter-culture mindset, and one that does not endear itself to others easily. But if we who claim to be God's children cannot live our lives in the same way that He did during His time on earth, how can we hope to bring others to Christ? How can we ask that those around us live in a manner we ourselves do not follow?
Sometimes people are too afraid or too skeptical to pick up a Bible and oftentimes we are the only example of Jesus that they will ever see. How can we live as Christians if we simply blend in and act identical to the rest of the world? They should know we are Christians by our love. And if they can't tell that there is something different about us, we clearly don't understand the whole concept of this Christian walk.
Today I could choose to reflect on myself. But instead, I want Jesus' love to reflect out of me. Because that's all that truly matters.