A Reason to Celebrate | Forum for Theological Exploration

A Reason to Celebrate

By: Stephen Lewis
April 27, 2020

Over the past 66 years, FTE has celebrated first responders to our souls and communities. These are the dreamers, artists, teachers, freedom fighters, priest, and healers who have shared their gifts on behalf of the greater good and the well-being of us all, particularly the least among us.

Party favors, friends and family, cake and ice cream, cameras, and candles to make a wish are essential items for most birthday celebrations. What I loved most about birthdays growing up was the ritual of it all. And I looked forward to celebrating with friends and family one of the most important moments in their lives—the day they were born. Why? Because birthdays provide us an opportunity to remember and celebrate our gifts and purpose.

What’s to celebrate, remember or reflect on during this birthday amidst a global pandemic? What’s to celebrate when so many lives have been cut short by the Coronavirus as a result of negligence and poor leadership? What’s there to remember when some people’s purpose never had the chance to bloom or see the light of day? These questions and more are on the minds of so many of us grieving today, thinking of more important things than birthday celebrations, and longing for better days.

In six decades, FTE has witnessed broken hearts, grief and depression, delayed plans and dreams deferred especially among those who too often experience the ugly underside of society and actions of infamous leaders. But the world has never experienced devastation, grief, fear and anxiety like it has in the past several months. Yet, unlikely leaders emerge in all kinds of ways who demonstrate the kind of vision, presence and service we desperately need. They inspire us, instill hope in us, and encourage us to keep on keeping on in spite of the distressing circumstances we find ourselves. In these moments of uncertainty, we turn to or create new rituals to mark time, make meaning and persevere.

Believer or not, birthday celebrations are one of these rituals. Birthdays are more than an opportunity for us to reflect on another year and celebrate what has been and what is to come. Instead, celebrating birthdays provides us moments to remember, anticipate and celebrate the purpose and gifts we each bring to the world.

In Another Way, the book I co-authored with Matthew Wesley Williams and Dori Baker, I write about the idea that before we were born, each person made an agreement with the Eternal concerning his or her life’s purpose. Before we were in our mother’s womb, God knew us, endowed us with particular gifts and purposely called us into being on behalf of a community and world longing for our gifts.1 While we may have forgotten the deeper meaning of why we were born, birthdays are more than about cake and ice cream. They are or should be momentous, sacred occasions our community of family and friends ritualize in reflection, recalling, and celebrating the gift we are and the purpose we each bring into the world in service to our loved ones, friends and the broader community.

Over the past 66 years, FTE has celebrated first responders to our souls and communities. These are the dreamers, artists, teachers, freedom fighters, priests, and healers who have shared their gifts on behalf of the greater good and the well-being of us all, particularly the least among us.

On this FTE birthday, let us remember them. Let us remember also that today and every birthday is a sacred moment to reflect on the fact that we too are born with a purpose critically important to the well-being of our family, communities and the world. Let us recall the different ways FTE Fellows, partners, friends, and participants are using their gifts to respond to this unprecedented moment. And let us celebrate the meaningful and purposeful ways all of us, in spite of this pandemic, are shaping a more hopeful future.

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