the art of celebration
I still remember the way I felt on the day of my best birthday party ever. I was a “bout to be six next week”-year-old. I had a head full of brown ringlets, a crush on a boy named Dylan, and I wanted nothing more in the world than to be an astronaut. If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would confidently tell them I was going to be on the moon. I loved looking up at night and imagining myself in the stars; doing zero gravity backflips in my space shuttle, and watching the world spin from way way up. So, when February rolled around that year, my mom worked her magic and carefully crafted the best birthday party Ms. B’s Kindergarten class had ever seen. She planned for a trolley to pick me and my 23 classmates up at school and shuttle us over to the Alder Planetarium. Once we got there, we ran wild exploring exhibits, watching a 3D movie on galaxies, and eating all the astronaut ice cream we could get our hands on. My sweet momma then topped off what had already been the peak of my miniature existence by presenting me with a homemade rocket ship cake, and leading my tiny peers in singing the birthday song. I collapsed in my bed that night, under my constellation of glow in the dark stars, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.
That chilly February afternoon, my mom gave me a gift worth more than the presents and the trolley ride. She provided me with a day of pure celebration fueled by extravagant love. She loved me for who I was - a whirl wind of messy hair in a plaid skirt - and she looked forward to who I wanted to be with the same wide eyed wonder of a six-year-old. My mom taught me two things that day, that my dreams were worth listening to, and I was worth celebrating. In doing so, she showed me what I was created for: an eternity of celebration.
Isn’t it cool how loved we can feel when the people around us celebrate who we are? We all love to be celebrated, I mean just look around. If we really slowed down and looked at our intentions through a microscope, I think we would find that our need to be celebrated is the driving force behind a lot of the things we do on a daily basis. We make good grades to be celebrated by our parents, try our hardest in sports to be celebrated by our coaches, go the extra mile at work to be celebrated by our boss, and edit our pictures juuussst right to be celebrated in the form of tiny red hearts and comments on our Instagram. We celebrate people every day, just for the passive act of being born. I think we were intentionally designed with this need for celebration, and it’s not a flaw by any means. As humans, we gravitate towards the people and things that make us feel the most celebrated, because when we feel celebrated, we get a sneak peek of what we were made for: an eternity’s worth of the best birthday party we ever had.
Whether we realize it or not, that’s what God is offering us when he calls us into a relationship with him. He wants to make every day our birthday, because we are the work of his hands and he loves us in a fierce and extravagant way. Just like my momma did twelve years ago, God comes alongside us to celebrate who we are and sit with us in anticipation of all the good we will be in this world. Regardless of where we go, or how far away we wander from God, his desire to celebrate you never weans or wavers. Here’s the best part: God isn’t waiting to celebrate you. He’s been throwing a party in your name since the day he created you.
Jesus reminds us of this in the story of the prodigal son. In Luke chapter fifteen, Jesus tells the story of a man who divided his estate between his two sons. The older decides to stick with his father, while the younger goes off spending all his money on girls and parties. When he had spent all he had, he returned to his father saying “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15:21, but his old man doesn’t agree. Instead of disowning him, his dad throws a crazy party in celebration of his return. He had never stopped loving him, and not for a second did he stop celebrating his son.
That’s who God is. He doesn’t see us through the same sin-tinted lenses that we do. He would never judge you with the harsh standards you set for yourself, and he never holds back his love for us. He looks at you today, right now, and finds every reason to celebrate you. Even on the days we don’t want to celebrate ourselves, God is singing over us. He stands beside us when we can’t find reasons to rejoice, and he throws a party on our behalf; trolley rides, rocket ship cakes, the whole bit.
We all need to be celebrated, because celebration is powerful. We were made to be celebrated. We were intentionally created for a life of deep belly laughs and late night car rides and screaming Taylor Swift at the top of our lungs. We were created to have deep friendships with people who see the real us, and can talk for hours while eating ice cream in our pajamas. We were designed with an inclination to celebrate silly little things like Taco Tuesday and our dog’s birthdays, and we were created to celebrate big amazing things like winning the Stanley Cup and new born babies. Most importantly, we were created to celebrate one another. So, let’s start living like it. As a wise man by the name of Kid President once recommended, treat everyone like it’s their birthday. It’s a practice that’s absurdly simple yet incredibly powerful, and it has the strength to leave us all collapsing in bed under a constellation of glow in the dark stars feeling like the luckiest six-year-old in the world.