How could anyone eloquently summarize this year? I’ve tried to write this piece for the last couple months, but words fall miles and miles short. So this is just an attempt at sense making.
Many good things have happened this year. Babies have been born. Love has been fallen into. Goals and milestones of all kinds have been reached: marriages, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, promotions, first steps, first words, first loves, first homes… Friends have been discovered and families have been established. Things have ended that needed ending. Things have begun that needed beginning. Jesus has been found.
But unremovable from these many good things, so much pain has happened this year. There are many, many things that hurt many, many people. Most of those things I have no idea of. 2020 has tasted different to all of us — but for most of us it has been some kind of bitter. It’s been dreary and draining. It’s left us panting with exhaustion, wobbling under the weight of grief, or laying listless and numb.
I was counting on a few things this year. Big things. Things I wanted really bad or have worked really hard for. But they didn’t happen and — at least for some of those things — they might never happen. The things that didn’t happen this year might change my life and the life of my family completely. As much as I wish it otherwise, the effects of 2020 will linger and last. The dust won’t instantly settle and the flowers won’t spontaneously bloom when the countdown ends. The end of this year isn’t the end of a movie where the rain cleanses, the sun rises, and the hero stands victorious. As far as I can tell, all that will change at midnight is I won’t be able to say, “Ah well, 2020,” with a shrug or “Damn you, 2020,” with a fighting fist when things go magnificently awry.
Arriving at today without the things I was hoping for is disappointing. But the things I lost this year — the things I had, not the things I wanted to have — also leave me disappointed… in people. My loss of confidence in leaders and the group I’ve belonged to my whole life is devastating. Not for the first or last time, my heart has broken as pedestals tumbled over and dumped their kings in the land of the everyone. I’ve learned again this year that humans will fall short of who I hope they are. Who I am sure of and what I believe continues to be stripped down to what is true and good. The One who is true and good. Unfortunately, and at the root of this devastation, is the reality that we don’t all agree on what the One is like. I can no longer trust the word of another, or even trust my own judgment. I live constantly in the hope that I’m getting it right and the humbling awareness that I might not be.
I’m finding that it’s true what they say: the more learning I do, the more I find there is to learn. There is no arriving at the shores of knowing, only the discovery that there is much more unknown. This applies to every area of my life: relationships, foster care, psychology, writing, and Jesus. This has been a year of remembering how little I know and continuing the quest to discover, while also acknowledging it’s not all for me to know. The living in between — the dissonance — of this year has been breathtakingly uncomfortable.
In all of the disappointment and discomfort, new pages have been turned in my book this year. New stories have started and forward steps have been taken. Despite it all, I am moving onward and I am looking upward. I’ve had firm footing this year in the infinite wisdom, shadowless goodness, changeless kindness, and faithful — though perhaps not always felt — companionship of my Maker and Saviour and Friend. Maybe I can’t always see or sense what he’s doing, but I trust him completely. He doesn’t need to prove anything to me. I know that I am not alone, I am not forsaken, I am not without purpose, and I am not outside of design. I am with the One who foresaw and lived through the history of the cosmos and humanity, who remains entirely unsurprised, and who tenderly feels all of my shock and agony and disillusionment. He validates all I’m experiencing and guides my eyes to the mountains, the horizons, the heavens, the dawns, the foundations, the anchors, the hopes, the truths — the everlasting and stalwart salvation of humanity.
Awhile ago I found myself screaming to my soul and hollering to my heart the words of an anthem: you are good. Tears poured down my face and into my coat as I drove and wept and sang. Inside those words were grief, sorrow, anger, defiance, determination, exhaustion, and doubt. These things whirled around me like a twisting rage, but in the midst of them I was aware of my immovable feet. Holding me to the ground were hardly discernible hope, silently humming certainty, and peculiarly confident peace. These anchors were scarcely felt. They were whispers, shadows, of what they had been. But I knew they were holding on to me. I need hold nothing as they wrapped their arms around and kept me. In this storm with me were my loved ones. I wasn’t — I’m not — the only one being held to the ground by unfailing, unflinching goodness. You are too, whether you feel or believe that or not.
I look to 2021 with very little expectation and very open hands. I’m bearing a white flag, not in fear or defeat, but in release of my plans. I surrender not to the chaos of the world, but to the One whose thoughts are higher, whose ways are better, and whose heart is so very kind. I really, to be frank, see no other option. Any other road is too heavy, hard, and hellish. Any other road takes me outside of the peace I so desperately need.
A few days ago I was talking about all the things I could realistically fear happening to my kids. My mom and sister asked how I could handle knowing those things are possible. I replied that I had to let it go and trust Jesus. I had to. If I didn’t I would literally lose my mind with fear. I wouldn’t be able to function under the weight of all that is too much.
That’s how I’ve survived 2020 and how I’ll wake up into 2021 — because like hell am I doing the midnight thing. I won’t be full of energy and alight with hope and purpose and dreams of a great new year. I’ll be drifting in on the assurance of Jesus. As a friend once told me when all looked dark: no matter what happens, no matter what, He and I will be just fine.