It’s almost my birthday. Less than two weeks out. And as I get closer to my birthday, I always reflect on my life. I think this is natural, but if I’m the odd one out, I wouldn’t be surprised. For my Personal Development of a Minister class, we were assigned a pretty dreaded assignment–one page on every year of your life. I know, I don’t remember being two years old, either. Actually, it wasn’t so much a dreaded assignment, but it was a long time-consuming assignment. I found it quite interesting, and I wished I had started writing it a lot sooner in the semester because I know I would have gotten more out of it.
Here’s what I wrote about when I was four years old.
“Jesus tells a story in the Bible about a rich guy who had a banquet. The rich guy invited lots of people, but most of them made excuses and didn’t come, so the guy sent his servants to invite other folks—but this time he invited the unlikely ones, people who normally don’t get invited to anything, folks like me. The message he had for this new round of people was simple: ‘There’s more room.’” – Bob Goff, Love Does
In preschool—though I do not remember all the details—we were given the option to choose our playmate for the day on our birthday, or in my case, some predetermined day for those who had summer birthdays. One of my high school classmates would jokingly remind me how I never picked her to play with. In college, I would take the StrengthsFinder inventory and received “Includer” as one of my top strengths. At age four, I had not yet known what it was like to be excluded. I did not yet know the pain of being picked last, so I excluded others. I was picky about who to include. I learned about popularity around the same time I learned how to stick a straw into a juice box. It did not matter that popularity was determined by who had the best toys. Perhaps I did not have the best toys, but somehow I had a level of four-year-old superiority. Though I could not have articulated it at the time, I operated under the unspoken theory that it was far easier to exclude and remain as I was than to see something new and take a risk on something that might change me, even if that change was for the better. God was not real to me. If he was real, he was distant. He did not make an impact on my life. I had not yet known the Kingdom of God was one where everyone is invited.
Weeks before I turned five, my birthday party preparations began. Since I have a summer birthday, so it was a month after I had finished preschool. The birthday party was Pocahontas-themed, so my mother and I put together gift bags with party favors that matched images from Disney’s Pocahontas movie. There was a girl in my preschool class that I really did not like, but my mother said that I had to invite every girl from my class. “After all,” she told me, “you would not want to be the one person who does not get an invitation while everyone else around you does.” I do not remember being particularly happy about having to invite her. When it came to putting the gift bags together, I made sure to give all my friends the cutest Pocahontas erasers (the one with the raccoon, named Meeko, was my absolute favorite), and I gave the ugliest eraser to the girl that I did not like. At the time, I thought that this was a genius idea; however, looking back on this, I realize that God used this to teach me a lesson. The day of my party came and the girl I didn’t like never showed up. So, guess which gift bag I got to keep? The one with the ugly eraser of course! I learned more than just “give the people you do not like the cute erasers.” I learned that when we withhold giving our best to others, we do not get to experience the true blessings that God has for us.