It was the worst of times. It was the best of times. Yes, I’m talking about 2020. For many, it was a very difficult year – loss of jobs, death of loved ones, racial unrest, homeschooling, isolation. And as I reflect back, two words continue to simmer and resurface – “Revealing” and “Opportunity.”
Revealing. Events of 2020 pulled back the curtain from issues that have existed for years, both personally and nationally. The year that just ended brought chronic division to the surface, magnifying vulnerabilities and injustices that were already there. It all but screamed “HELP!” Those who suffered from anxiety or depression before the pandemic likely sank even deeper. For individuals who tended to isolate, the stay-at-home orders provided permission to binge watch, escape through video games, or do whatever was necessary to stay sane at home. For many of us boredom grew as entertainment ceased. Life as we knew it seemed to come to a complete halt. And we didn’t like it. We wanted our activities, people, and at least a hug every once in a while.
But growth often comes in uncomfortable places and through challenging circumstances. And the first step to healing is awareness. You have to acknowledge there is a problem before you can fix it. Ironically my word for 2020 was “clarity,” and this year gave me lots of it, helping to reveal and expedite the removal of distractions – things, activities, and even some people. I like my friend Scott’s perspective about the reference to 2020 as a “dumpster fire.” “What’s so bad about a dumpster fire?” he asked. “A dumpster contains stuff nobody cares about, which is why they put it in a dumpster. A dumpster is self-contained, so the fire is not likely to spread…” So, like a dumpster fire, 2020 helped me dump stuff that needed to go. It expedited a very slow-moving purge that had been dragging on for years.
Opportunity. This was another word that resurfaced throughout the pandemic. As a Christian, difficult times create opportunities to trust in the Lord – and there were lots of them in 2020! There were endless opportunities to be a light in our often-dark days, helping to fill basic needs to those who were unemployed and hungry. Hurting and lonely people were everywhere we turned, giving us a chance to respond and make a tangible difference. This year also provided creative ways to reach people for Christ through virtual worship, Zoom meetings, and online Bible studies. In my church, we connected online with more people than ever before, as we all were stuck at home searching for hope. I also started an online Bible study soon after the pandemic began, something that had been on my “To Do” List for years. Technology became an integral tool in staying connected with our loved ones, communities, and friends.
And speaking of loved ones… For many, 2020 sent kids back home – from college and primary schools. It also brought my adult children home, where we had the opportunity (there’s that word again!) to spend quality time together. Thanks to the virus and stay-at-home orders, more family time was available and became a gift for many.
So for me, 2020 wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I almost didn’t write this story because it’s hard to admit that this was one of my best worst years ever when so many others have suffered.
As we move on to 2021, my prayers will continue for all of you as we plod along together. I hope you too will be on the lookout for the blessings among the ashes – whether or not the dumpster fires continue.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)