Sensitivity vs. Callousness
Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15) - Bill Gothard's Character Traits
Before I talk about my own experience, I want to talk about birthdays, in this movement, as a whole.
Birthdays in a Gothard family can vary wide and deep. The level of celebration depends on several things. First, how deep into Gothardism the family is and when they came in. Second, how many children the family currently has. Third, the level of legalism they adhear to. For some families, birthdays were spent in a very normal way, with friends and family, with gifts and cake. Our family was different - we were a Charter Family.
When us older kids were very small, our birthdays were nice occasions. Usually, someone from the community would come over and my mom would fix a nice lunch. We'd have a birthday cake and receive presents. Somewhere around 1987, my father read a lecture by Mr. Gothard and had an epiphany. Birthdays, he decided, weren't spiritually appropriate, as they had been celebrated and were being celebrated by "others". Like a lot of things, he felt we had to separate ourselves from the worldliness of society to be doing the right thing.
According to my father and other father's in our ATI community, it was decided that birthdays should be an acknowledgement of your gift of life and a rededication to your service and purpose for the Lord. No cakes were necessary. Just a pat on the shoulder or hug, followed by a lunch or dinner with mom and dad where they talked to you about your beliefs anda your future. I won't lie. It was something I did look forward to because time alone with my parents was a luxury rarely available. However, when I would see other families having big birthdays in the park, I was jealous. My mom, as I've said before, didn't like it much either. She felt that that kind of celebration may be appropriate for a much older child but she argued that little children should at least have cake and a gift. My parents battled on this. It was my mom's mission to make sure we each had this small trinket and a cake.
Dad finally realized that, not being home much of the time, he was going to have to let this one go. He gave my mother permission to "handle" our birthdays- but he gave her "limits". We could have a cake, but it had to be a cup cake. We could have a gift, but it had to be something useful in our life or useful in our future. Recently my brother and I compared our birthday lists for fun. Over the years when I was home, I received - a hope chest, a lace table cloth, a tea pot, my grandmother's quilt, an apron, a family bible, a picture frame, and -one "toy"- a small doll crib for my rag doll. My brother's girts were- a small tool set, a Mag-Lite flashlight, an adult Bible, money to put in his savings, a saw, and later a repair book for cars. Those are the things we remember.
My mom would bring in our cupcakes or cakes at lunch. We'd break from play or homeschool to gather around the table and sing. We sang the regular birthday song until someone taught us the Christian birthday songs that started the rounds in our community. Only the birthday child got the cake and this got ugly at times. We were all supposed to be gracious and happy for the birthday boy or girl but most of the time we just wanted to steal their cupcake! Sweets weren't allowed in our house and it was a prize.