NOTE: Marilyn Bazett-Jones serves as an officer elder at Green Bay Community Church. To read more of Marilyn's writing, go to her Abiding in Him blog.
No doubt, this has been a most unusual year! But amidst pain and confusion, sickness and sacrifice, a stronger and wiser spirit emerges. Let this not be wasted, but let us grow from our experiences rather than lock a rough year behind us forever. Here are some observations about what we might learn from 2020:
1. My greatest angst has been my dad's isolation from family as he remains locked down in assisted living. One of the first things I learned was that many things are out of my control! But it led me to realize that I can trust that God is always in control, and He loves Dad even more than I ever could. He is Lord over all and working things out for good, even when we can't see it now.
2. It's been a year to "reset," to strip away idols (i.e., objects of extreme devotion, symbols of worship)... to be without things I thought I couldn't do without. I've found blessings in redefining my security, reprioritizing my time, and repurposing my resources.
3. I am learning to be flexible and adaptable, and to embrace change; to hold plans loosely because things can change overnight.
4. All of us have had to make sacrifices for the sake of the vulnerable. Each of us knows someone vulnerable to motivate that response. We have given up things that were hugely important to us -- but not without purpose.
5. I have sharpened my creativity and been inspired by others... new ways to connect; new patterns, recipes, insights, and inventions; clever celebrations of birthdays, weddings, and holidays... With collaborations of ingenuity happening from around the world, the spirit of resourcefulness is alive and well.
6. I am learning new things to help my health and boost my immune system (and test my discipline). This year has been a good reminder to actually do the things I have been intending.
7. Even in a year with many things taken away, I have an abundance of reasons to be thankful. Gratefulness is an accurate perspective; my glass is more full than it is empty. And I reach out in compassion to those who have needs.
8. I am learning to be more discerning, to check my resources before running with new information. Obviously everything I read, see, and hear can not be true.
9. When things seem confusing and chaotic, there are always good leaders and positive resources to learn from. I am thankful that I can look for them, join them, and help spread their wisdom.
10. Despite all the negatives, I can choose to look for the positives, such as whatever is "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy." (Phil. 4:8) What peace it brings to focus on those things.
11. My heart is heavy with compassion and empathy for those suffering, grieving, and exhausted. I have cried many tears for those I care about and those working so hard. In the words of Job, "Shall we accept good from God and not trouble? (i.e., Is God only worthy of my devotion when He does things my way?) As difficult as things may be, nothing can separate us from His love.
12. We should not think it strange when we suffer grief in all kinds of trials for it refines our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7); makes us mature and complete (James 1:2-4); produces character and hope (Romans 5:3-4). It is hard... but hang in there.
13. Getting through a global pandemic will require perseverance, an esteemed quality that builds over time under resistance. We have many long-suffering examples in the Bible as inspiration.
14. We were made for something bigger than ourselves. My plans and purposes have changed, but when I redirect my energy to new causes and passions outside of myself, my joy returns amidst the challenges.
15. Evil and injustice seem to thrive for a time, but we can entrust ourselves to the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23) i.e., we can forgive and leave the judging to God.
16. When I grumble, I am only adding to the darkness. When I reach out to love others and help find fruitful solutions, I can be a shining light.
17. Even if I can't do anything else to help, I can pray. When we pray, we are calling on the Highest Name, the Holy God, the only one who can change the present situation. Whether He chooses to change things, or change us through it, either way we win with prayer.
18. We are diverse creations. We all see things differently and there is much yet to learn. We can look outward and upward, and commit to being patient as we work out the details.
19. We will get through this together. It will take the collective skills and cooperation of many. I pledge to bring my best efforts each day.
20. This will only last for a season -- and with the vaccines, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We can't go back; we can't leap forward. We can only live intentionally in it day by day and learn from it in ways that will glorify God.
Wishing you all the blessings of a quiet, reflective Christmas. May you carry Christ's love and light to make it a refreshing new year.