New Year’s Day 2020 dawned full of optimism. I hoped for a year of perfect vision to go along with the new number, but I guess that usually comes in hindsight. Two months after the year began, my vision became muddy, clouded over like cataracts.
With the global pandemic, natural disasters, and manmade disasters, I hesitate to write such an understatement, but this has been the most unprecedented year anyone alive has lived through. It’s been a year of loss: loss of loved ones, loss of normalcy, loss of income, loss of so many things.
As one of my friends recently said, “I want precedented back.” I long for boring. And that’s probably the first time in my life I’ve said that.
Now, eight months into the year and five months into the various phases of lockdown (doesn’t it feel like much longer?), things are starting to become clear. Are there things you knew before that have come into sharper focus now? Or things you used to be blind to, but now you see them?
Here is my short list of things that have become clearer to me. What I Know for Sure:
Life is uncertain. It can be short. It is always shorter than what you want. Each day is a gift to be treasured because you don’t know how many more you will have.
Life is not fair. It can be cruel, in fact. Suffering is real.
Bad things happen. They always have. I try to imagine how people felt in 1918, when soldiers returned home from the global War to End All Wars, carrying the Spanish Flu with them. The pandemic lasted two years, but then, this too, ended. Numbers vary drastically, but the war killed between 15-22 million people and the flu between 17-50 million. People at the time must have thought it was the end of the world.
People are what matter. People everywhere are basically the same with the same needs–for love, belonging, safety, health, significance. They desire good for their children. They desire peace.
People’s kindnesses are a gift to be appreciated and returned. Years ago, a truth finally made its way into my hard head: It’s more important to be kind than to be right. Across the world, people are tense; everyone has a short fuse. Everything becomes a fight. I’m tired of fighting. We need to stand for injustice, but can’t we do that without hating the person we disagree with? Can’t we just be kind to each other?
Work and school aren’t things to try to get out of. Didn’t it used to be fun to play hooky, or is that just me? Now I long to be able to go to work in person. Sure, I could use the paycheck, but it’s not just about money. The ability to work, or go to school, becomes more significant when it’s taken away or drastically curtailed. When the lockdown first started–WAY back in March–at first I was thankful to have a longer spring break so I could finish the edits to my novel. I never wanted spring break to drag on for five months!
Simple things can make your day. Conversations with strangers in the grocery store or co-workers at the water cooler become greatly missed when they are absent from your life. I’ll never forget the charming couple Steve and I happened upon in May (from a distance of six feet wearing our masks). We all chatted and laughed for over an hour. We had nothing obvious in common. They were twenty-something and African American. But at the end of our delightful conversation, we all remarked how much we just needed to talk to a live person.
God is still God and He still loves the world. He still loves YOU. His mercies never stop coming. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to see them. Every morning, His mercies are there. Even in a year like this one.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:19-24 (NIV)