2020 has been so…enlightening.
At some point in mid-April, I sat at the dinner table, with a plate full of some sort of crazy recipe I had never attempted before. I had used exotic ingredients that I would never normally buy except all my usual grocery items were sold out on every shelf, and I had a revelation.
“I’m trying every night to make dinner interesting and exciting so we’ll have something to look forward to because life is so dismal these days,” I told my family.
I remember Morgan laughed. The kids looked at me adoringly.
However, those meals were brightening everyone’s days except my own. The complications and straight-up fear and sadness involved in grocery shopping during that strange time were heavy weights, and no amount of shredded pork nachos topped with greeen chili queso and mango pico de gallo could buoy my spirits.
Thus began my obsession with compiling the lessons of 2020.
Lesson #1: Faithfulness looks like marching onward even when you have no idea what tomorrow holds.
A few weeks later, we took a good look at our canceled summer plans and had to decide what kind of vacation we could feasibly pull off. I was grieving the loss of a road trip to California, where we were planning to stay at the same timeshare my family has enjoyed for decades. I hadn’t been back to California in a few years and I wanted a homecoming of sorts. I wanted the familiar Palm Springs slow pace of life. I wanted to ride the gondola to the mountain and watch my kids go down the hotel waterslide.
“I don’t want to go to some rental here in Texas just so we can socially distance in a place that isn’t our house. That seems so dumb,” I told Morgan.
He let me stew for a few days and then he said he thought it would be good for us to get away to a lake somewhere. He was right (as usual); it was good and I was glad we went. But I’m here to testify that Gun Barrel, Texas is certainly no Palm Springs, California.
Lesson #2: Making do with less-than-ideal circumstances does not mean you have to live a sad, martyr-like existence.
Just when it seemed like 2020 was really the worst year ever, a man named George Floyd was killed. Everything fell apart inside me. My friends were demolished by the reality that a man who looked just like them could do everything a police officer told him to do and still end up breathless on the ground, literally suffocated by the dismissal of his rights as a citizen and human being.
The ensuing cultural upheaval and (somewhat) collective prioritization of anti-racism was heavy with both hope and heartache.
“I just want to serve our black friends. I want them to know we are with them, no matter what,” were the only words my grief could spit out the morning after George Floyd died.
The pursuit of mercy and justice for black Americans has been the most painful part of 2020 for me. I’m sad to admit that many days I’m still unsure about how much progress we are making. Things are not as they should be, but my soul clings to the ancient prayer, “All is well,” even as I mourn new videos of new deaths that are evidence of a problem that is ancient and tragic in every way.
Lesson #3: Change and transformation are not destinations on the long road home, they are slow-blooming fruit in the lives of those courageous enough to keep showing up
And now, here we are, in September, living a completely new kind of normal life. Church and school and jobs and shopping and travel and the economy have all gone through multiple upheavals in a matter of months. People are desperate and haggard, fighting about politics, masks, vaccines, schooling, and just about everything else.
We are processing collective trauma while attempting to move forward. We want to rip this awful year off ourselves and discard in a lake of fire somewhere. But that is impossible, and so we look for someone to blame for all the ways we are suffering.
We are desperate for hope and terrified by its scarcity in our neighborhood, city, nation, and world. As we attempt to process the many losses that 2020 has levied against us, we are grouchy, empty, and weary. Our lack of endurance and patience, as well as our incapacity for the drama of this year, is revealed in how we are treating one another.
There has never been a time in the history of our nation when we all agreed on anything, but somehow we still think that truth and justice will win if everyone would listen to one more speech, read one more article, take one more stand on social media, or if one particular candidate is elected.
“None of us is at our best, and so we can’t offer one another our best. And yet Jesus is still within us, so maybe we can offer some measure of Him to one another,” I told Morgan one afternoon.
Lesson #4: All of us are in this together, and Christ is in each one of us, together.
I don’t know what 2020 has taught you, exactly, but I know that this year is shaping us in both painful and precious ways. My prayer is that the scars we are left with will become evidence of the power of God’s love to turn death into life.
And as we follow this path before us, may Christ be the great buoy of our spirits. May the glorious reality of His resurrection remind us that there is no loss He cannot overcome. May we know that our lives matter because His death mattered. And may we find His light shines best within us when we offer His light to the world around us.
May we learn the lessons God has appointed for us this year. And when the pain passes away, may we be left with more of Christ in all we are, all we know, and all we do.