I woke up to a text on a very important day. It was from an unknown number, and yet I knew exactly what it implied. I groaned loudly like I usually do when I wake up, my eyes barely able to open. I knew I had to get ready for a full day ahead, even though I was stuck in the same place financially as I’d been the last few months.


I sat on my bed, scratched my head, and looked at my text message again:

Hey, you wanna come over and chill? I have $300 on me . . .

Ugh, I have to go through this again? Why does it have to be today, on this day — my birthday?

I jumped in the shower and got ready as quickly as possible. My mother had called me earlier that week, pleading that I go to my grandparents’ house and take care of them for the weekend since most of my family had other priorities that they couldn’t neglect.

My mom was very aware that I’d already made plans with my friends to celebrate my birthday and that I go out for it every year! Yet she pulled out the trump card: “I know you planned stuff with your friends on your birthday, but your family needs you right now!”

Both my grandparents are pretty old and need someone to take care of them 24/7. My grandfather has ended up in the hospital from internal organ failure, and my grandmother has dealt with dementia and also ended up in the hospital.

Usually, I’ve had uncles, aunties, and cousins taking care of them, but all of them had plans my birthday weekend. And so it was up to me to take care of them.

Since I was jobless and wasn’t doing anything, my mom figured I would automatically drop everything and help out right away. She was right in a way, but I had very little money to drive four hours to my grandparents’ place — just $5 in my bank account.

I knew I needed a miracle even to get out there, and now this triggering text message was stuck in my brain as I got ready.

I packed my clothes for the weekend but needed to get some food in my stomach before the semi-long trip.
Since it was my birthday, I knew some restaurants where I could probably get some free food (A.K.A. Denny’s), and I was going to take advantage. The Denny’s waitress led me to my seat, and I waited for some free food. I asked for an orange juice and sat there thinking of how to take care of my grandparents that weekend.

While I waited on my drink, my best friend texted me and wished me a happy birthday, asking how I was doing. I told him how I felt and where I was. He was working that day but had two of his clients cancel on him; he had two hours left to kill, so he decided to spend them with me.

My best friend came to Denny’s and sat with me. I told him about the triggering text I’d gotten that morning and vented about this whole situation. I just wanted a day not to think about my problems. I just needed a day to be happy for once!

My best friend sat there and listened with empathetic eyes and a gracious smile.

For an hour and thirty minutes we sat there, waiting for the waitress to come back and take my order. FREAKING ONE HOUR AND THIRTY MINUTES!!! I was so annoyed that I told one of the workers to cancel my order, and we left!

Before I could take off to my grandparents’ place, my best friend stopped me in the parking lot and apologized for how my day was going. Then, he gave me something — $150 in cash!

I was stunned. I gave my best friend a big hug and thanked him for helping me. He said it was the least he could do since it was my birthday and he wanted to make my day special.

And so I drove off to my grandparents’ place with enough gas money to make it there. Out of everything that happened that day, this kindness from my best friend was the highlight of my day.

While driving to my grandparents’, the freeway had very hazardous wind conditions, causing several major accidents. Some semi-trucks almost caused me two different accidents. On top of that, the wind jerked me around for a few seconds; a police officer even pulled me over because he thought I was driving recklessly.
I told him it was the wind conditions and that I was just trying to regain control of my vehicle. Fortunately, he believed me and let me go!

Oh, get this! When I was halfway to my grandparents’, my mother called me to say my grandmother had ended up in the hospital again. She told me to go straight to the hospital and check on my grandmother, because we didn’t know how her dementia would affect her being checked out.

Two hours later, I got to the hospital and checked on my grandmother. She was in one of her episodes, and I tried to calm her down while the doctors and nurses tried to figure out what was going on with her.

I kept giving updates to my family about her condition, and my mom told me just to go back home. My grandmother would be in the hospital for a good week, and my family arranged for her to be taken care of by one of my uncles.

Another four-hour drive back home, alone, just me and my thoughts. Going back to all of my problems.

Should I just text back the guy and see if we can “chill”? I could get $300 from him. Do I want to go back down that road again?

I didn’t text the guy back and instead texted my friends that I was coming back home. I also texted my best friend and asked if he could gather some friends for a small birthday party since I was having a bad day!

Hopefully things would turn around after this, right?

Four-hour drive back home, and I was exhausted! It was nighttime, and I called my best friend for the location of the party. He told me it would be at this one girl’s house — you know, the one who effectively ended my Bible study and started her own Bible study instead.

Oh great! At least some of my friends would also be there, and I’d finally get to enjoy my birthday with people I knew and could have fun with!

I got to this girl’s house where twelve people were watching some movie. Only three of them said “Hi Matt” with a monotone voice.

No “Happy Birthday Matt!” or “Dude! It’s great to see you!” None of that! Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic here, but come on! I was already having a crappy day!

I took a deep breath and exhaled; frustrated, I tried my best to remain calm. I asked how everyone was doing, and of course I got your typical answer of “It’s good!” No questions asked back from any of them!

So, I interjected about my day, giving them most of the details (minus the morning text message), and they finally responded sympathetically.

Around that time, my best friend and this girl who ended my Bible study entered the room with my birthday cake, and I was not having it! I whispered in my friend’s ear, “I want to go home!”

But I stopped and thought: You know what? Everyone is here, they’re doing their best, and I should enjoy spending this last hour of my birthday with them.

I forced myself to relax and thanked everyone for coming out to spend their night with me. I told them that since I was having a crappy day, I hoped they might come to the movies with me after we had cake. All of them said yes, and I was relieved!

Before my friends sang to me, my best friend shouted, “Hey! In my family’s tradition, we gotta push the birthday boy’s face in the cake!”

I stared back at my best friend and told him, “No!”

He was very adamant about it, and I explained that it wasn’t a very good idea because of how my day had gone. If he did something like that, I knew I’d get very angry. So, I asked him to respect my wishes.

After my friends sang to me, my best friend asked if I could meet him in the kitchen because he wanted to tell me something. So, I met him there as he held out my cake; then, he smashed my face into the cake.

I . . . was . . . pissed!

Enraged, I slammed my best friend’s head into the cake and on the counter. He thought this was funny, and we basically had a cake fight, but by the end of it he saw my eyes. I was furious!

He kept asking if I was okay, and I said lowly, “No!”

I tried to control myself and not burst into a fit of rage.

Bible study girl gave each of us a wet washcloth to wipe off the cake. We got most of it out of our clothes, face, and hair.

I wanted to get out of there.

I told everyone I was headed to the movies and doubled-checked to see if they still wanted to go. Nope! They were either tired or it was getting too late, and all of them bailed on me.

In my mind, I was like: You know what? Screw you guys!

I left for the movies all by myself, some cake still in my ears, ending the night by myself.

My best friend and I didn’t talk for four days after that incident, and our relationship status changed — along with that Bible study girl he was interested in.

Have you been triggered or tempted by a text, conversation, or other interaction? When have you succumbed to temptation because of an awful day, and have you experienced victory despite a trigger or awful day?

About the Author

  • Wow, Matt. Sorry to hear about that. Mine this year wasn’t the greatest [I was having a lot of trouble getting around due to arthritis in the knee, just prior to knee replacement surgery], but yours was – indeed – terrible! My condolences, there, brother. No amount of words can help heal the wound at this time, I know, so I will refrain from platitudes, here, as I know they don’t do anything but make us more angry in situations like this, however, I do want to let you know people out here do care about you, brother, as a brother in Christ, and hope that things improve in coming days. Take care of yourself and be gentle with yourself as you move forward through the week. Go see a few movies, go do something else you enjoy [by yourself, or with a friend who wants to be with you] and try to remember you are worth loving, and being loved. I know these are just words and probably not the same as a big ol’ bearhug from a bud or a brother, yet it is true, that we have an automatic “no one cares about me” inside our head that is not true, as there ARE people who do care about us, and love us, although we sometimes dismiss it in our worst hours, when we feel our worse and are moody, depressed, et cetera, and just don’t want to believe it.
    Again, try to be gentle with yourself for the next few days and do things you enjoy, EVEN if you have to do them by yourself, and make it up to yourself by caring about “number 1,” alhough it may seem to everyone else you are being selfish. In the long run, it will be a plus for you, and most people will forget it ever happened [that you needed to take a time out for you].
    And, for what it’s worth, a belated Happy Birthday from a brother.

  • Oh geez, that does sound like a day of non stop misery. I hate it when those voices of the past suddenly pop up in your life again when you least want them to and its like an avalanche from there. I wonder if your friends flaked out on seeing the movie with you because they saw how angry you were after the cake incident and figured they’d bail to avoid the awkwardness?

  • [whispers] i wish my friends would pick a cake fight with me
    But in all seriousness, what a ride!
    There are a few things that I’m realizing will trigger discontentment, sadness, and loneliness in me 100% of the time and I’m trying to get better at recognizing them and avoiding them. It’s a tricky thing to do without, e.g., getting rid of all social media, or whatever.

  • Wow…I feel like I was there at your party Matt! My birthdays are always the same…just another quiet day. I can’t remember when I have even been to a birthday party either…more years than Heinz has pickles I am sure!

  • That truly sucks when a friend that should know you certainly better than I do crosses you like that. I can’t blame you for being so angry that you cut him off for days. When it comes to tactics used by the enemy, I am forced to confront frustration (job related), loneliness or boredom mostly. When I feel this let down, I try to make myself feel good again even for an instance by engaging in masturbation and pornography. Yet I feel numb and mayne guilty afterwards because I feel I failed again to white knuckle my temptations. The only alternative “victory” I find is simply retreating into sleep if I can pull it off so as not to succumb to sin.

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