We’re all ready to kick 2020 to the curb, but before we do, I think there are 3 blessings & 3 lessons we need to take with us, and 3 steps moving int0 2021. This year has been a crisis, but if we ignore the things that surfaced, then we’re failing to take the good that God has for us out of this year. We can leave the baggage behind, but we need to pack the lessons and take the steps!
1. Deeper Community. In my house, it’s been a blessing to be in close quarters together. We are working together better, we’ve grown closer to each other, and we’ve learned how to ask for what we need. We’ve relied on each other for much more, and we’ve found out together what we can achieve. The growth in our relationships is a blessing.
2. Resilience. This pandemic has forced us to move in new directions and test our skills. We’ve discovered how resilient we can be in tough situations. We’ve made it through toilet paper shortages, hand sanitizer crises, and birthday celebrations that had to be altered in creative ways.
3. Better Living Environment. Many of us spent time cleaning up our own houses, sorting through things, and finishing projects we had left for another time. All around us, things are more organized and cleaner, and charities have never had so many donations to sort!
1. What Really Matters. From those of us who cleaned out stuff we didn’t need to those of us who started to understand why making time for extended family and friends was important, we spent this year discovering what really matters to us. Stuff is nice, but doesn’t resolve our main needs. People are our community, and we need them! Above all, our faith in God is what gets us through a crisis, and many of us discovered not only that we need to make time for that, but also that we don’t really know how to worship and spend time with God without the regular help of our churches.
2. Our Individualism was Challenged. Our country has become such a place of rugged individualism that we have forgotten how to work together to achieve a common goal. We are focused on what works for us, and although it’s nice if that helps other people, that is not the objective we’re trying to achieve. In a pandemic, it can’t be about surviving as an individual. This is an advanced Survivor challenge, and we failed, because we tried to build everything on our own, and we ignored our team. That’s the kind of behavior that gets you kicked off the island. The countries that succeeded in neutralizing the pandemic worked together, made the sacrifices necessary to protect everyone, and have moved forward well.
3. Our Dark Sides Emerged. For some of us, it was finding out how selfish we are when we couldn’t do what we wanted. For others of us, it was complaining about every little thing beyond our control. For still others, it was taking out our anger on social media or on other people in our lives, or resisting change with all of our strength. Let’s face it – we saw our dark sides in 2020, and it wasn’t pretty. It’s really tempting to just try to shove all of that back inside of us and move on, but it’s better if we look it straight in the face and work on what we discovered about ourselves. Take on the dark side, and try to bring some light to change it!
STEPS FOR 2021
1. Emphasize Teamwork. We live in a community known as our family, we exist in multiple groups in our society. So we need to start to emphasize how we all work together to make the world and our communities better places. Instead of doing everything ourselves, or leaving it for someone else to do, each of us can look at what role we play in each circle we’re part of. Make a plan among your family for great teamwork with everyone picking up part of the work, unless they’re under 2. (although even 18 month olds can pick up toys and sort socks!) Look at your commitments to the groups you’re part of – are you shouldering part of the load of making that group work and succeed? If not, how can you become part of the team in a meaningful way? Unless we balance our individualism with teamwork, we’ll be right back in the same place. Start small, and keep going!
2. Lighten your Dark Side. Whatever dark side was exposed for you this year, face it, acknowledge it about yourself, and keep it on the table so that you can work on it. As G.I Joe used to say, ‘Knowing is half the battle.’ So now that you know this about yourself, how can you set some daily goals to change it? Choose some ideas, put them on sticky notes on your mirror, and reminders elsewhere, and focus on making some positive changes in your life. Think how good you’ll feel when you realize that you’ve managed to encourage someone instead of criticize, or that you’ve stopped yourself from posting a negative on social media and chosen something better instead. Find a way to embrace change and try something new. That will make 2021 feel so much better than 2020!
3. Refocus on What Really Matters. Start with learning how to be present with God in meditation and prayer, whether your church can help you or not. God is ever-present in our lives, right there next to us when no one else can be. Set up a way to be with God daily – in reading a small devotional, having a short prayer time, and taking a thought or message forward to focus your day. Then think about what you’ve learned about what really matters in your life. Orient 2021 around those things, making choices about how to spend your time in ways that reflect what really matters to you.
Kicking 2020 to the curb feels good, with extra drinks or food, or however you choose to celebrate. However, let’s not leave the year without giving thanks for the blessings, recognizing the lessons, and thinking deeply about how to make 2021 a better year. It can be better for us whether or not the pandemic continues, if we just reflect, learn, and make some changes in our lives. This is how God brings good out of each and every challenging situation we face!
In God’s love, Pastor Kimberly