On Sunday, I stepped into my thirty-eighth year of life in Billings, Montana. I found a local cafe, McCormick’s—open 7 days, says the pink and blue neon sign—and ordered my birthday breakfast. Two eggs, over easy, toast, bacon. In the McCormick’s, the morning light tendrils through the windows, cuts shafts through the slight mist of floating bacon grease. Bacon grease—could there be a better incense of the people? It’s a beautiful thing.
I opened my laptop and connected to the mccormickcafe network, and when the signal strength bars filled, my Facebook birthday notifications began streaming in. Facebook—I don’t care if Mark Zuckerberg is a socialist; hasn’t he created a platform that makes us all feel inordinately special on our birthdays? On Facebook, every birthday is an exercise in rediscovering that, yes, you actually did hang the moon.
I watched the cafe patrons—the young father stealing his son’s nose, his mother ordering cinnamon rolls at the counter, the old men waiving their hands and speaking in slavic tongues, the fella in the Auburn Tigers hat and the University of Montana sweatshirt shoveling four eggs down his gullet. We were a loose community, they oblivious to my solitary birthday celebration in the corner of the room. I smiled.
It was the happiest birthday. There was no sense of loneliness, only solitariness (the two should not be confused). Amber, the boys, and I celebrated before we left, and it was fantastic. Friends were sending their birthday wishes via the internet, and text message. I felt loved.
A birthday in Montana, eggs and bacon on your plate. Who could ask for more?
I’m still in Montana, and today marks another sort of birthday. Today, my first book, Coming Clean, hits the shelves. This time, I’m with a few good blokes, and we’ll have a smallish celebration. We’re without internet access, though, so aside from these fellas, I’ll have no idea whether Coming Clean released with the fanfare of a Facebook birthday, or whether it slipped onto the shelves in relative silence. There’s something that feels right about that.
Birthdays bring noise, bring celebration. Birthdays are the day when it’s okay to be the center of attention, to grab the limelight. Self-indulgent treats are occasionally justified. Perhaps a book birthday no different. Sometimes, though, self-indulgence does a body bad. I know this from experience.
In Coming Clean, I offer a raw account of my first 90 days of sobriety, illuminating the ways in which I numbed my pain with self-indulgence. My vice was liquor, but as we’ve learned in the Recovery Room over the past year, many numb their pain with various and sundry vices—sex, eating, puking, achievement, drama, theology. The vices, don’t they crowd out the voice of God? Don’t they distract us from the many ways God hopes to speak to us in our pain?
Today is the birthday of my book. I hope you’ll order your copy. I believe it’s important. But aside from this piece of writing, and a few scheduled social media messages, I’ll be relatively absent from the noise surrounding the release. I’ll be on the river, watching the trout fight against a fly line, and I’ll be thanking God in the quiet. The quiet–it’s where I learned to escape vice; it’s where I found God again.
Seth Haines’ book, Coming Clean, hits the shelves today. Don’t miss his story of pain, doubt, and the kindness of God that drew him into faith. http://sethhaines.com/books
After you’ve let your fingers do the clicking, find your own quiet space and ask yourself this question: is there some vice, some noise distracting me from the still, small voice of God? Is there something from which I need to come clean?
Walk into another sort of birthday, the birth of a new story. You won’t regret it. I promise.
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