Baxter had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was his assigned birthday. I assigned it to him. You see, the shelter where I got Baxter told me he was about four months old when he came to my house, but they didn’t know the exact day of his birth. So I counted back four months, and looked for a date I would remember around that time. I picked February 14, Valentine’s Day, as Baxter’s official birthday. I count his age from that day each year. He is eleven this year.
I have noticed a few changes in Baxter as the years have gone by. He feigns to scratch the furniture less (no front claws). His play periods are much shorter than they were when he was a young cat. But one thing has increased in Baxter’s routine. He is much more affectionate in his later years. Almost daily now, often twice a day, Baxter crawls upon my lap, purring away, and circles around until he finds the spot where he lies down for a short nap. He gets stroked on the back and a belly scratch, and he then usually falls asleep for a few minutes, sometimes soundly, and sometimes I fall asleep as well. Then, all of a sudden, he jumps up, gets down from my lap, and goes to one of his many favorites spots for a long term rest. The brief interlude with me seems less about sleeping and more about connecting. He just wants to be sure I’m still close to him, that we share our living space, and that I’m not going any where to leave him behind. In his older years, Baxter has come to appreciate companionship and knowing he’s not alone.
That is something we all need to ponder as we count our passing birthdays as well. It would look a little ridiculous to try to get into the lap of our close friends and family. We have accumulated too many pounds over the years for that. Yet, it is anything but silly to appreciate the closeness the years have brought as our lives together gather more and more memories. That is how we grow close, living together long enough to share memories. The experiences may not always be pleasant ones. Intimacy isn’t created only by the triumphs and proud moments we share. It also comes through the defeats and failures we have known together, using our shared expressions of pain and sorrow to divide the burden between us and support each other in the process. When we add it all up we get a summary of the human condition, and if we reflect on our stories a bit, we gain a little wisdom from the accumulated mix we share.
Jesus’ disciples discovered this closeness with Him as they realized what He had done for them in sharing His life, death and resurrection. Four of them wrote their reflections on this story in what we know now as the gospels. They all carried forward the memories in their preaching, teaching and sharing of the Spirit with others interested in His story. Disciples are intimate companions of the Lord Jesus. He knows them, and they seek to know Him. The memories of their lives are intertwined with His so closely that their stories come together. A disciple’s life is more than his or her biography. It unveils how Christ is living still with His disciples today — magnifying their joys as a reflection of God’s glory, sharing their pain and loss as the extension of His own cross, and transforming the whole of their lives as the promise of new and eternal life. Disciples share their lives with the life of the Lord Jesus, and the memories that are created generate a closeness with God that we come to count on and trust.
We are all a year older from last Ash Wednesday, and our life journeys will continue to add years until they end. Growing older doesn’t have to be a threat to us, if we come to appreciate the closeness with God and each other we have gained through the years. Lent is a good time to take stock of this closeness, and to take steps to grow closer still. Take the time to sift through the memories of your life to uncover the divine companion who was with you all along. He is with you still. Invite Him into the lap of your life and rest assured in His love.