It’s January 2021, and all the holiday music has been played, the ribbons discarded, and new possessions squirrelled away into their proper places, signaling that lights and decorations must be returned to their hiding spots until the holiday madness begins to rev its engines once again.
I don’t hate January, particularly because at our house we celebrate two kids’ birthdays, born three years and one day apart. But more than that, January is always a time of reflection for me, the moment I review the previous year and decide what was a good effort, and what I need to do differently in the coming months. Naturally this gives rise to the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions, a series of the usual suspects which seldom change my life because most of the time they’re lightly made and just as lightly kept. But one part of my yearly reflection ritual does truly make an impact, because if I reflect honestly, with my whole truth, I am forced to confront my blessings as well as my troubles, and that is a wonderful thing.
I’m not going to stand here with a phony grin pretending 2020 was a bowl of roses, because it wasn’t. Covid has rampaged through the entire world, ravaging families, economies, and civil societies until we all question what normal could possibly look like. From every corner we’re sprayed with a steady stream of bad news as uncertainty, hunger, and loss seep down the walls of so many homes.
I was at work the day I got the news that my 77-year-old father and sweet stepmother had contracted covid, and I remember hiding behind my computer and crying out of sheer unadulterated fear. Fortunately, their doctors acted immediately, getting them the lifesaving antibody serum they needed to tamp down the virus before it could take full control. For months I’d been praying fervently they would be spared the virus, but our misfortune was not averted. Instead it was laid gently on the scales and balanced with such a slough of blessings that the whole contraption managed to lean in our favor, allowing them a lowered likelihood of re-contracting the virus that will last until they can get the vaccine. That’s what God’s finger looks like, and it’s an image to hold onto.
In my blog I have taken a fairly light hearted approach to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been blind to what is going on. On the contrary, I’ve followed the news articles every day, trying to keep abreast of all the varied and tangential events locally, nationally, and internationally, and learning all I could about what I needed to do to protect my circle of loved ones. Such an avalanche of information could have buried me in sorrow and fear, but two things saved me.
First, I have to admit that after the personal nightmares of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, the year of covid was actually relatively tame by comparison. I know that sounds horrible and flippant, but it is the plain truth. I had just spent four years in such a heinous struggle for survival that I had consciously and meticulously paved the widest path of communication with the Lord I could possibly manage. When 2020 burst on the scene, I already knew what to do, and the Lord did just exactly what he always says he’ll do. He stood by me and one by one made good on his promises, even when the pandemic made it look utterly preposterous. I was shocked to discover there were even moments when he used the pandemic itself to my advantage. How’s that for a magician’s trick? I call these moments covid miracles, and I bet if everyone looked closely, many more of these blessings would be laid bare, revealing the attentiveness of God in the affairs of men.
My second salvation is related to the first because I didn’t just talk to God, I trusted him to know better than I did. I’m not perfect at this, by the way. In fact, I have many miles to go and much hard work before I can permanently relegate fear to my rearview mirror. I feel guilty about this because the Lord has shown me enough of his ways that intellectually I know better, and I know he knows I know it. But I have to start where I am, holey socks and all. That means 2020 did bring me hurt and fear and pain, but I clung to hope, which my dad taught me is related to patience with the Lord’s ways and timing. With that hope I acted on the Lord’s instructions, even when they seemed out of left field at the time, and these little leaps of faith gradually opened doors to impossible blessings which I must acknowledge today in January 2021 as I reflect on my year. Such gifts have nothing to do with ribbons or bows, instead 2020 granted me treasures of understanding I will continue to spend for the rest of my life.
We’re not out of the woods yet. The virus is spreading like wildfire as so many people grapple with the effects of illness, grief, and economic hardship. The vaccine is going to take months to distribute, but it does exist, and in stunningly record time. For me 2020 has only served to illustrate that God doesn’t lie, which means it would take far more than a worldwide pandemic to stop the flow of blessings. In fact, the only way to stop it would be to put on my coveralls and build the dam myself.
In 2021 I resolve to lose a few pounds, and maybe write a book, but whether I do these things or not, I know the Lord will be with me, helping me steer my course. No matter what else is going on in the world, this, all by itself, is reason to celebrate the new year.