I love birthdays. Whether mine or someone else’s, there’s just something great about the fact that everybody has a day where they are celebrated. Birthdays are the perfect time to reflect on where life has taken you, who you want to be, and the steps (or missteps) that you’ve taken a long the way. They are also a great occasion for remembering what is special about another person and for recognizing all that they’ve meant in our iives. All of that, and you get ice cream, and there’s really just nothing else like them.
My love for birthdays is especially prescient because today happens to be mine. Being the introspective person that I am, I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about the previous year and how my life has changed. In a lot of ways, its been a tough year. Not because anything abhorently bad has happened. Thankfully it hasn’t. But the year has brought a lot of experiences that have stretched my perception of myself. It’s been a year of challenge as I’ve sought to define who I am without reference to what other people expect of me. In a lot of ways, this has been more difficult to deal with then when outside forces collaborate to bring about less-than-pleasant things. When things that are identifiably bad happen to you, other people come to your side and can engage in tangible activities to alleviate the situation. When the struggle is internal, that assistance is unavailable. You’re left with just the reflection in the mirror. Time marches on, and whether you march with it, is dictated by how you respond to the questions that have been raised.
For lovers of fine wine, time is also extremely important. Bottles are chosen and priced based on the year of their creation. A “good year” occurs when the vintage achieves the level of fullness that the wine maker intended. A wine from a good year is treasured because it has achieve the objectives of its creator. Although I don’t know a lot about wine-making I do know that not everything that the grapes go through is pleasant. They are processed, stomped upon and generally stripped of everything but their essence in order to produce a drink that will be enjoyed by thousands. The challenge with wine-making is that during this process the end result is not known immediately. There is an interim period where both wine-maker and wine-lovers must trust and hope that the process has its intended outcome. It is a time of waiting and of challenge, and it is only in retrospect that its effect can be seen.
Consequently, in a lot of ways, I have come to believe that this past year of my life has been a good one. I trust that whatever road God is leading me down, He is the One doing the leading. The Creator has a purpose and a plan, and just like every step before, this past year has been a part of that process. My job, just like the grape’s, it not to worry about what I’m going through, but to make sure that I’m responding appropriately. The year has been one of challenge and heartache, but its also been one of growth and blessing. It’s been a year that’s changed me, that has caused me to realize who I am at my essence, and to be stripped of much of what I believed to be true about myself. It’s also been a year of grace, as I’ve seen God’s faithfulness time and time again.
In the final outcome, I believe that I will look back upon this year as a year of transformation. And maybe that’s what a good year, in both life and in wine-making, is really all about.