In the past, my annual reflections on “what I learned” were typical for believers in Christ. They were my experiences and observations as I progressed on my spiritual journey. They included such things as how I experienced God’s goodness and what I would work harder on in the new year. I always finished the year hoping I had deepened my relationship with Him.
So what’s different this year? Everything is different! Why? Because 2020 was very different. As my pastor said a few weeks ago, “There is no such thing as a ‘new normal’. There is no normal. Everything is dynamic.” Life as we knew it has changed. We now live in a constant state of change.
What I learned in 2020 requires that I go deeper than I normally would in order to fully express the range of emotions and responses to everything that has been happening around us. It’s been said “life will make you bitter or better”. With 2020, the jury is still out.
2020 Responses: We Long for Many Things
Most responses to 2020 have ranged from anger (dumpster burnings of 2020 in effigy) to appreciation for the opportunities presented as a result of the pandemic Stay at Home directives.
The variance in these responses may stem from our ability to accept, absorb, or assimilate the changes that are taking place.
Some people respond by retaliating for what they see as a loss of control or threat to their personal freedom. Remember the initial responses to the pandemic? The battle over wearing masks? We are no longer able to “do what we want to do” without considering the impact of our choices on others.
We now more fully understand “our connectedness” and dependence on each other. We will need each other to successfully navigate the world as it is in “a state of becoming”. There is a saying that, “You can’t be a winner in a losing organization.” That statement is never more true than right now.
A Year of Grieving
2020 has also given us much to grieve over. The loss of life due to the pandemic is unbelievable. I pray that we never become comfortable with the rising number of deaths within our nation and the world. So complacent that we forget that each “number” represents a person, a family, a life no longer present with us.
Let us also continue to pray and support those who serve during these horrific times. The medical professionals, public employees, and service providers who daily risk their lives for us.
A Year without Relationship
I think we grieve the most over our “disrupted relationships”. We desperately miss being with our families and friends. No hugs. No kisses. We’re left with Zoom calls, online worship, and elbow bumps, if we’re lucky.
This longing to be with others is evidenced by our nation’s inability to deal effectively with the coronavirus. We desire to be with one another so much that we are willing to literally die for it (or cause someone else to die).
While we desire to be with family and friends, our relationship with others has suffered in 2020. We have separated ourselves into tribes based on our political views and class distinctions. We have set aside the basics we learned in kindergarten–play nice and share. We are at war with each other! But why? Over what? There will be no winners in the end—-only pain, anger, and resentment.
This is unfortunate especially since we so desperately need each other during these tumultuous times. It is now that we need “to put on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…and love” (Col. 3:12-14).
So what have I learned?
God is faithful (Deut. 7:9; Heb. 10:23) and is able to see us through whatever problems we face. Actually that isn’t something new I’ve learned. However, 2020 revealed God’s faithfulness in a new context.
That context included a deadly pandemic, social injustice, economic upheaval, and civil unrest. 2020 was like a dystopia movie. A dystoria is an imagined place or state in which everything is bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.
But God was everything He said He would be. He was my provider (Phil. 4:19). He was my protector (Ps. 46:1-3). Jesus was my peace–something we still need in 2021. God’s presence was my comfort and assurance through all the madness of 2020.
You and I are living proof of God’s faithfulness in that we now stand on the other side of 2020. And how did we get here? How did we get to the other side? God brought us through (Is. 43:2).
God’s Plan of Salvation
There is so much I have learned (and continue to learn from 2020). But the most important thing I’ve learned is to see life through the reality of God and His plan of salvation.
God is purposefully executing His plan of salvation for mankind. Eternal God is sovereignly exercising His purpose in the midst of our history. Regardless of today’s current events or who is currently in leadership, they must all defer to the rule and reign of God (Daniel 2:21).
God’s plan for mankind didn’t end with the arrival of Jesus Christ. God is still manifesting His plan and we are part of that plan right now. It is our privilege to join God as He manifests His purpose in the world.
So what have you learned in 2020? I can’t wait to hear from you.