Birthday Party Grinch

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Perhaps I have mentioned this already, but not being an innately useful person, I make it a point to stand next to really useful people. Thus, when inevitability overcame yet again and I decided to blog (confused? Back to the beginning with you!), I did not go about it like a useful person –searching the internet to figure out how to set up a website or blogamathingy, reading the instructions, paying the fees and whatnot. Of course not. I called my brother, one of the most useful people God ever made, and he gave me space on his already existing web-thingy and even loaned me a son to make the thing work. All lovely, and thank you most excellent brother.


Since my writing has been directed elsewhere of late and thus UnPublish(able) has been collecting dust and thus kicked me off, insisting on a password to get back in, I have discovered a slight downside to not being resourceful all by me onesies: the “are you human?” question. Now, don’t get me wrong — I appreciate that said brother did not set up one of those little puzzle scenes where you have to click on all the bicycles you see (I always get these wrong. If what you see is the biker’s hand gripped over something that logically, based on the rest of the picture, has to be a bike handle but because she has a death grip on it, you can’t technically see the bike clearly, apparently it is not a bike. It’s like Schrodinger’s Bike). Instead, he set up what appears to be an overly simple addition problem (10+5 and the like) and then apparently coded it in such a way that my first attempt declares me inhumanly bad at math EVERY SINGLE TIME. I don’t have the heart to be annoyed (and yes, I double checked my math) — it strikes me as too funny and makes me happy that we are related.

So I continue trying to inch my way towards being a grown-up. I reread Steinbeck (spoiler alert: he is still an awful writer. Turns out I wasn’t biased against him in high school, I was just dang perceptive), I stood in line with 3 pairs of shoes (shiny ones, at that) and then changed my mind and walked out without purchasing a single pair (meaning I put them back on the shelf, not just that I opted not to bother paying for them) and I took my daughter to a birthday party.

Eh what, say you, the reader? Wouldn’t that be a milestone for the daughter, not for you? In a word, no. She was excited. I hate birthday parties.

Before you explode at the screen, hear me out. I LOVE birthdays. I could not be more tickled and grateful to see my wee Quail included; to be thought of and considered is lovely. I have just always loathed birthday parties, and am only now at 39 years old trying to put names on my reasons why. A few leap to mind, largely uninvited…

  1. In my dread of being late and hampering the festivities or drawing unnecessary attention, I tend to be early. Like, silly early. Like, standing around in the corner while the family finishes preparations early. Which leads to number 2…
  2. That bit about being useless really gets a spotlight shined on it in the moments where a birthday mom is buzzing about the house finishing last minute preparations and there is a dead weight guest standing in the corner trying to blend into the wallpaper. Why do I find myself incapable of offering to braid someone’s hair or hide scavenger hunt clues or help set out napkins? Mostly, because it literally never crosses my mind, it feels so invasive. I tend to not see the things that need doing, I am dreadfully unobservant, and I already feel rude for being there early.
  3. On principle, birthday parties feel like a major downer for the birthday kid, because on the one day out of the year that your existence gets to be tootled about from the rooftops, you are expected to be gracious and hospitable and make sure your guests go first and are having a good time.

As I examine the dark corners of my party-hating heart, the theme I see rising to the top is embarrassment. I have a mortal dread of embarrassment, especially witnessing it in other people. I would probably laugh off my foolishness in being too early, but I writhe to watch my daughter feel awkward being early and try to find where she belongs in a situation that we are too early for. Yes, I find it personally embarrassing that I was at the event for 2 hours and didn’t think of doing the hostess’ dishes until, um, right now, but I also ache when I see kids feel their own awkwardness. When a birthday child misbehaves and needs correction at their party, when a guest spills or gets frosting down their princess outfit, when there is a misfit in the group who stands and smiles awkwardly but isn’t totally sure how to join in… for reasons I don’t yet understand, I feel the embarrassment of others far too much; it is my emotional Waterloo and it undoes me every time, and thus I have learned to dread social situations that I associate with easy and frequent embarrassment.

Anymore, I am not personally easily embarrassed, and that was probably born of necessity. I’m not sure I could function as a human being if I felt this level of mortification over myself and every other person I see, so over time, I have learned to embrace my more embarrassing mistakes and features with humor that I hope borders on grace and I even find myself seeking to extend that super power out into conversations with others, to smooth over potential embarrassment, even if that means making a fool out of myself so that another person has a moment to hide/to collect themselves. I don’t mind forcing the attention of a group onto myself for a ridiculous reason if it spares the heart of another, even just for a moment. But I am not yet good at extending that to children and I wish I could, because if my own memories of childhood are worth anything, embarrassment is felt even more acutely in youth than it is in adulthood, and it feels plenty strong now.

And this takes us, inevitably, as all good (and most mediocre) blog posts do — to the cross. You and I have a shame problem. Perhaps birthday parties give me a frosting-lick’s taste of the overwhelming shame and humiliation that should rightly be mine… that Christ Jesus bore instead. Because in Him, there is no shame left for me. No corners to hide in, because they are not needed. Nothing is left uncovered — It Is Finished. He finished off the shame by bearing it in His own body. He did not hide. And here’s the thing… if you are not in Christ, then you will spend an eternity bearing all that shame and humiliation in your own body. You will not be headed for any birthday party embarrassment. So go, run, hide in Jesus NOW. Only He can bring us into celebration without shame.

  1. Number One Fan
    | Reply

    Welcome back! Hope you enjoyed your 110-day hiatus; your fans, however, languished in the silence. But, with your return, you pointed readers to the cross. All is forgiven.

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