Another year in my life has come and gone. The Earth has completed another circle around the sun. Thankfully, I am alive today to celebrate the day of my birth. I am able to express my thanksgiving to God for my life. I can reflect on the gifts I have received because of this beautiful, difficult, tenuous, exquisite, unpredictable, heartbreaking, and joyous life God gave me. I appreciate everyone who has wished me Happy Birthday or thought of me today. In my way, this prayer is my birthday gift to each of you.
When I was very young, my mother, Lucile, provided me with the happiest birthday memories of my youth. The simple beauty of my birthday parties has never faded with the passage of time. Today, when I got out of bed, my thoughts centered on those birthday parties and on what gifts from God I received from them.
Before each birthday party, I had a crescendo of joyous expectation. Mom set up the picnic table. A colorful tablecloth was placed over it. Homemade ice cream was cranked and ready to go. Party favors were placed on the table. My cousins and friends arrived. Each of them carried packages wrapped in colorful paper. “What was in them?” Then, the games began. Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Bobbing for apples. Dropping clothes pins in a milk bottle. The gunnysack races. Races to reach the finish line with the egg still on the spoon.
After the games, I, the birthday boy, and the other kids sat around the table. Cups of ice cream were placed in front of us. Then, Mom set on the table in front of me the chocolate cake with a decadent layer of chocolate icing.
I recall my mother telling me there was something special inside the cake for the first time. Below the light of the candles burning on top, there was a gift unseen below in the dark layers of the cake—an unseen gift of her love and devotion to me. In the span of my long rich life, I learned this ritual pre-shadowed God’s everlasting unseen gifts to me.
I made a wish and blew out the candles. Mom served to me the first piece of cake. With my fork, I dug like an archeologist for a treasure of sorts. I uncovered a shiny dime wrapped in aluminum foil. No matter how old I got, as long as Mom made a birthday cake for me, she placed that unseen gift in the cake. Today, Dorothy has taken on this tradition for me.
Two weeks after my sixth birthday party (as seen in these photographs) I was paralyzed and quarantined from my parents, siblings, and friends. I was submerged underneath the darkness of paralysis. The only light in the darkness around me was the bright light overhead my bed at Hedgecroft Hospital.
With daily prayer with a priest in my room, the unseen gifts of God hidden in my misery began to be seen by me. Revelation upon revelation of the unseen treasures from God that had greater worth, meaning, and value than all the dimes in my birthday cakes. The eyes of prayer enabled me to see and find lifelong strengths in losing my muscles from polio.
Such love from God empowered me to be stronger. My weaknesses became my biggest strengths as a son, father, husband, grandfather, collaborative divorce attorney, author, songwriter, and servant of my Creator. My fragility and vulnerability provided me the spiritual wisdom of learning that we are all imperfect, broken, and universally healed by Godly love. The darkness of polio allowed me to see unseen light-filled treasures just waiting to be found and shared with others in dark times.
God has spoken in Scripture as to the unseen gifts in our birth from God.
I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. … Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, please help me to have resilient faith that You have unseen gifts of love for me hidden in dark times in my life.
God, with prayer may I see in the darkness of my struggles, illnesses, and brokenness the unseen gifts of my birth and life from You, so that I may be empowered by Your Holy Spirit to live my life with continued hope, purpose, and conviction.
God, may I find Your hidden holy treasures, blessings, and gifts in the dark times. In so doing may I use such gifts of spiritual wisdom, which by Your grace, become the way to live a deeper and richer life in the glorious light of Your love for me. Amen
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love, go to the Bending Angel website.