My Best Birthday Gift
One can almost blindly attribute the word ‘happiness’ to a wedding celebration. It is true that not all weddings turn out to be happy. Or in other words, not ‘everyone’ in every wedding party is happy. But I certainly was, when my cousin got married at my grandma’s place in India the day before my fifteenth birthday. What could be more fun than wearing your best attire, hanging out with family and friends, and tasting some of finest Indian recipes? Just as I had expected, the grandiose day came to an abrupt end right after lunch. The one who interrupted my day of fun was my dad. I was actually anticipating that awful moment when my dad would ask me to go with him to Madurai, my hometown, which was about five hours away from the wedding so that I could participate in the annual sporting event at my school.
There was more than one reason to grumble and make excuses for me not to go with my dad. First, I would have done almost anything to stay back with my friends and enjoy the rest of the celebration. Second, I was never a big fan of track events. The last time I ever participated in a track event was five years before when my friend pushed me to fourth place in a 200-meter dash. And now, I was supposed to run an 800-meter dash with much better-trained athletes. “Just give it a try,” said my dad with an intentionally strict tone, which almost sounded like ‘you better win’ as we were on our way to Madurai that afternoon.
To make matters worse, we forgot our house key, which forced us to find shelter in someone else’s house. When I woke up the next morning, everyone at home, starting with my dad wished me “happy birthday!” but I was anything but happy. If only I had stayed back at grandma’s place, I would have gotten quite a lot of gifts, I thought. And that was nothing close to the ‘pre-race syndrome’ that I was going through. My system was flooded with adrenaline just by the thought of the race that I was supposed to run in couple of hours. The fear of failure haunted me to such an extent that I could barely eat breakfast. This is my worst birthday I said to myself as I walked into the stadium.
“This is the third and final call for athletes who are participating in the 800-meter dash”, announced the commentator. Winners from the previous year seemed to be much calmer than I was and lot more confident of their victory. The race began. I tried my best to stick with the crowd during my first lap. At the end of the first lap, I saw majority of the athletes slowing down except for one student who was in the leading position. With just 300 more meters to go, I made sure I followed that one student. The racecourse curved around for our final 100 meters. With friends and schoolmates yelling from the podium, I remember looking up to see my dad at the finish line, shouting and waving as if asking me to speed up. I still wonder how I sped up to win the race, but the next thing I remember was my father holding me and people congratulating me. At the end of the day, we did go back to my grandma’s place and my relatives showered me with different kinds of gifts, but I knew clearly in my mind that none of those gifts could compare to the prize I received at the finish line.
This experience of mine taught me a very important spiritual lesson that I will never forget. The choice is not always between good and bad, but also between good and better. Having fun with friends was good, but participating in a race which created a wonderful memory was better. Getting birthday gifts from relatives and friends was good, but the accomplishment on the finish line was better. Similarly, getting a good education, finding the right life partner, earning more money and even having fun in life is good, but there is something far better – developing an eternal relationship with God.
A short conversation everyday with the God who loves you enough to let nails run through his palms will make everything else in life look insignificant. The sad part is, sometimes the ‘good’ seems better than the ‘better’ to our sinful selves. We get so absorbed into what we think is ‘important’ that we often forget the most important in life. As vulnerable as I am, I humbly ask that if you haven’t had a conversation with Him today, run toward that Father who is shouting and waving for your love. It is never too late.