September 21 – When Facebook Friends Call You By Name

Yesterday was my birthday. I am not a big birthday person. The day comes and goes; every year it comes and goes. Not quite a birthday Scrooge, but I’m just not a big birthday person. Receiving gifts is not my love language, so presents and a cake are not high on my priority list.

But yesterday was a great birthday. Each of our children called and 2-year old Caleb sang “Happy Birthday” on my voice mail. I would have been happy enough with that. In fact, it doesn’t get any better than that in my book.

But it was also a great birthday because of Facebook. I have mentioned my love-hate relationship with Facebook before, but yesterday I loved Facebook. Facebook tells me that 53 people wished me a happy birthday.  I looked at the list again this morning. 53 well-wishes on the day. 53 birthday greetings from ten states and four countries in three different languages.

Family and friends wrote. I heard from kids, now middle aged with grandkids on the way, who were in my first youth group in California. Colleagues in ministry and parishioners from various places said “Happy Birthday.” Mission partners in Guatemala and El Salvador wrote “Feliz Cumpleaños” and Brazilian friends posted, “Parabéns” and “Feliz Aniversario.”

I didn’t get very many cards in the mail this year; who does anymore? And I know a Facebook greeting takes all of ten seconds to post. Still, I like it. I like being remembered. I like being told that who I am and what I have done matters to a few people in our world.

Gary Chapman, the Love Languages expert, would say that it’s pretty clear that my love language is verbal affirmation, just one of the five love languages*.

Chapman is probably right. Maybe I am just one of the 20% or so of all people who speak “words of affirmation” as my first love language. Those Facebook posts were just up my alley. Kind words from people who know me and consider me to be a friend.

But words of affirmation are also at the heart of the Gospel. Isaiah the prophet wrote, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have called you by name, you are mine.’” And Jesus said to his disciples, “You are my friends.”

If we are ambassadors for Christ (and we are), if Christ makes his appeal through us (and he does), then there can be gospel truth in something as simple as a “Happy birthday,” “Feliz Cumpleaños,” “Parabéns” or “Feliz Aniversario.”

So thanks to all of you who wished me a happy birthday – folks at Faith Acts, friends during the day, those good people who sealed the envelope and licked the stamp, and, yes, Facebook friends from far away and long ago and right here now, too. Yes, I’m willing to say that there was a little bit of gospel in those greetings! No “bah, humbug” this year!

See you Sunday.

*In Chapman’s scheme the five love languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

You may learn more here. And, yes, it would appear that Jesus speaks all five love languages fluently.