Congratulations to Me
When I come alive in my very first memory I am standing in a kitchen in Nigeria. I remember distinctly how the concrete feels beneath my feet, the cooking smells mixing with the heavy humidity in the air as rain pelts the tin roof relentlessly. There's a commotion going on. People are crowding at the doorway to the outside world, laughter is breaking out in spurts of giddy delight, and my mother is singing.
"Raindrops keep falling on my head, and just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed, nothing seems to fit, oh raindrops keep falling on my head they keep falling."
Investigating what has caused this explosion of joy, I push through the crowd to spot my baby sister, toddling around with her umbrella, splashing in puddles and giggling with glee.
My second ever memory is the intense heat of betrayal. I was not allowed to play in the rain. I, with free spirit and winsome wandering stitched into the very fabric of my soul was denied every attempt at the rain frolic which so appealed to me. My sister did it, and it was a noteworthy event worthy of celebration and recording for posterity.
My third ever memory is jealousy. I had experienced anger - that was cruel. I had experienced fury - that was overwhelming. But I had yet to experience jealousy. And jealousy? You cannot stand with that. That's the thing which will cripple you. (Proverbs 27:4)
We have some good parents. They nipped the jealousy thing in the bud with intention. (Thank God. The child has an accomplishment list longer than the road from our gate to our favorite childhood chop bar.) One of the sneaky parenting tools they used was giving me a birthday gift each time we celebrated her birth so I knew I too was special and loved. Here's the thing about that though:
Eventually they stopped doing it. They stopped because I was old enough to know: This might be her birthday but my birthday is coming. It's okay that she gets presents now. I'll get presents later.
The Sunday after her engagement, people at our church came up to me, and they hugged me, and they told me "congratulations." I loved this. Not just because it's a beautiful picture of how I feel about my sister and the way they all know it, but because that is how it should be.
We are a body. One body. A win for one is a win for all of us. My feet are sitting here with me right now, and they are not jealous that my hands are typing. They know their place, they know the places they get to take me, and they know I'm far more likely to get a pedicure than a manicure when the time comes anyway. A win is a win! Period.
Somebody gets assigned a solo? Congratulations to me.
Somebody gets a job promotion? Congratulations to me.
Somebody is pregnant? Congratulations to me.
It's the body. Healthy is healthy. When God blesses others, I should be just as grateful for that as if He were blessing me.
And here's the thing about rain y'all:
IT GETS ON EVERYONE.
I just wanted that to be extra noticeable because I think it's extra noteworthy. An open heaven is an open heaven. I'm serious, have you seen the way rain works? Ready or not. Just or unjust. When rain falls, it's falling on us all.
There's another verse to the song my mother is singing in my memory:
"Rain drops keep falling on my head, but that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red, crying's not for me, oh I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining."
That's a beautiful sentiment about the futility of complaint in an unfortunate season of life, but that last line is not entirely true. Life and death are in the power of your tongue, and you actually can stop the rain of God's blessing in your life by complaining.
"From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. " Proverbs 18:20-21
What if all you had to eat today was the "fruit of your mouth?" (The things you've said about other people, the way you've spoken to or about yourself, the response you've given when met with something or someone unpleasant.) Would you be filled and satisfied, or would you contract a case of food poisoning? Would your storehouse be full of harvest or barren and dry?
May we react to blessing with the understanding we are all one body.
May we understand that true gratitude for blessing - even blessing given to others - is a trademark of Christian love.
May we be the happiest, most charming guest at any party - birthday, bridal, or baby.
May our words taste like cake as we attend the special occasion of our one life with our sisters and friends, celebrating all of God's good gifts given, together.