“Happy Birthday!” Have you ever noticed how people respond to you when it is your birthday? Isn’t it great?!? People come out of the woodwork to give you gifts, they are kinder to you, and they give you a lot more grace than they normally would give you… it’s wonderful… after all, it’s your birthday. Have you ever had someone, on his or her birthday, serve you? I have….
The event occurred many years ago when I was in high school. I was with my church high school youth group and we were at the house of the guy whose birthday it was. After he cut the cake, he served the cake to everyone else first and then took the last piece. Likewise, with the drinks, he did the same – asked everyone what they wanted (there was a selection of sodas) and then served everyone – again, serving himself last. The service put me into a state of disbelief… after all, it was *his* birthday… shouldn’t he have been the one being served instead of the one serving?
This set of collective memories has, apparently, stuck in my mind for many years and the thought of birthdays have never been the same for me. Now, that is not to say that I have been a servant on all of my birthdays (though, there have been a few throughout the years), but more importantly the experience has helped me with “upside-down” thinking. Upside-down thinking is the type of thinking that only comes from assistance with spiritual understanding. It is where the servants are at the top… where humans will judge the angels… where the King comes as a hunted baby. We would have never written those things into the plot if it were up to us… it is too “upside-down.”
Heather’s birthday recently occurred and I found myself extending un-normal (well, from my “normal”) amounts of grace, understanding, sympathy, and quick forgiveness to her – after all, it was her birthday. And then it hit me… why wasn’t I extending her this grace all the time? … this understanding all the time? … this level of sympathy (or empathy, if warranted) all the time? … to be quick to forgive her all the time? (Colossians 3:12-14)
So, I decided I would start The Birthday Experiment, but not just with my wife, but with others too. What is the birthday experiment? Whenever the desire to naturally be short with someone, unforgiving toward someone, or have a lack of grace toward someone arose within me, I would pretend it is his or her birthday and extend the patience, grace, forgiveness, or love that Christians are called to display toward their neighbor (note: this doesn’t even say “brother” or “friend”… but “neighbor!”The only criteria is that the person be someone you know!). Sometimes, I even say, “Happy Birthday!” to the person.
Now, I know I’m not yet perfect at this birthday experiment (especially for all you readers who know me personally ~smile~), but I’m trying every day… and with practice, increasingly more days will be everyone’s birthday. Since attempting this, I discovered that I have had more interpersonal peace with others and that a rough edge – that can sometimes come out from me – has been sanded down somewhat (though, more work is still necessary).
The birthday experiment is especially important in the light of your romantic relationships. Whether you are dating, courting, engaged, or married – treat the other person as if it is always his or her birthday. You will find much more peace injected into your relationship overall (1 Peter 4:8).
So, what do I want from you, dear reader? Join me. Join me in this grand birthday experiment. If you’re having difficulty with someone, pretend it is his or her birthday and extend grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and love. Am I saying to blindly forgive every offense? No, there are some issues that will need true reconciliation and/or restitution. And if the issue is repetitive, then yes, it will take some work to remedy the situation. But, imagine within the circumstance that it is his or her birthday. Would you let it go if that were the circumstance? If so, then let it go – forgive the person and move on and tell the person, “Happy birthday.”
What would The Birthday Experiment do to affect your relationships?
(If you’re on board with the birthday experiment, Like this post and comment below! Let’s see how many people we can get on this movement!)