The year that got us: my look at 2020 in the rear view mirror

As the year is wrapping up, I’d thought I’d share some reflections and personal updates because it’s been quite the year. I’ll do my best to keep it from being rambling or disjointed. Truth is, I’ve not been writing as I typically do, which is evidenced in the sporadic posts I’ve had this year. The last one was September so what does that tell you. It’s not for a lack of wanting or material, either. I’ve actually started several posts but never finished them. I do have one almost complete in which I’ve already committed over 1,200 words so hopefully that will come soon.

I think a contributing reason to the writing malaise is that its just been a hard year and one that wears on the soul. I recognized early on in the pandemic that the sense of disorientation and “fogginess” is actually kind of normal for what has been a most un-normal year. My hats off to those who seized the opportunity of slow down to fill it up in fruitful ways. I just wasn’t able and I learned that is ok, too.

If there is one thing I can say about this year, it’s been one of exposure of hearts and where our loyalties really lie. I say this primarily of the Christian whose first loyalty should be to Christ and his kingdom with loose commitments to the social and political factions of this age. But this year with all that’s happened–from COVID, more police shootings of unarmed black people, lockdowns, and a bizarre election cycle–has pulled back whatever veneer resided over socio-political orientations we tried to mask with our Christian presentation. Not to mention the tensions that have ramped up in the church over the issue of Critical Race Theory that has created more divisions. That’s why I say it’s the year that got us. It exposed us. It showed what we truly valued. We can no longer hide.

Nor should we. In fact, I’d say with everything 2020 has wrought also gives us the opportunity to take a good hard look at the priorities of our Christian commitment and the lenses through which we filter it. It’s easy to say I love Jesus when it’s also accompanied by affirmations of cultural comfort. I love Jesus and my freedom. I love Jesus and my blackness. I love Jesus and my fight for justice. I love Jesus and my president….loves that put caveats on faithfulness. But the church has always been tempted to follow the spirit of the age and we do well to ask some deep hard questions about our propensity to follow it. That’s something that ultimately comes through conviction of the Holy Spirit. We should not grieve or quench him. John’s divinely inspired words ring true here, “little children keep yourself from idols.” (1 Jn. 5:21)

But one thing 2020 also showed me is that we have no idea what 2021 will bring. None. Just think about the projections you made at the beginning of the year and anticipation of how it would go. I’ve often been reminded of what James says regarding our plans;

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ (James 4:13-15)

We do well to approach 2021 with such a mindset.

For me, 2021 will be quite a busy one with work. I manage a small nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate international diversity. We do this primarily through events, with the signature one being an annual festival that brings many different international cultures together through performances, food, merchandise and displays. Like other orgs in arts and culture, live events were shuttered and creatively readjusting for a new normal has been on tap. The show must go on and that’s going to mean more elbow grease on my end, a challenge with the uncertainty of when this pandemic will end. Needless to say, I don’t expect to be writing much on here but I’ll do my best.

And speaking of writing, for the past few years I have been zealously encouraged by many to actually write a book. I have in mind what I’d like to write but actually sitting down and putting it together seems like such an overwhelming task. Yet, I trust if this is something the Lord really wants me to produce, there will be a way.

A bright spot in 2020 that I surely hope will continue on into 2021, has been co-hosting the Family Discussion podcast with Rev. Marcos Ortega. I have truly appreciated our partnership and friendship, which makes for enjoyable conversations even with the tensest of topics. We started this podcast with the intention of navigating through the hot button topics in a way that actually honored our shared union in Christ when we disagree. The brother has a heart for the Lord and it comes out in every episode. We are currently in the middle of our third season which is focused on the issue of race and justice. In January, we’ll be doing something really interesting by looking at the issue through the lens of systemic theology and its core tenets. But you can catch all the episodes at Podbean.

I was also grateful to co-teach a class on racial healing this fall with one of our elders. The class was adopted from a pre-conference workshop I did at my denomination’s ONE conference in 2018. The intent of the 3 hour workshop was to get past all the language and formulas that we fight over and get to the heart of matter by grounding ourselves in Scripture first and showing how the Fall has impacted man’s orientation towards each other then looking at how that’s honestly played out in American history with the goal of seeing how a Christian orientation should address the infractions. We turned this into 11 sessions and added a look at present day secular remedies and their shortcomings. The sessions were through Zoom but we wrapped it up with an in-person session in which Ligon Duncan was gracious enough to Zoom in for 15 minutes. He gave us a heart-felt presentation about his perspectives as a southerner and the things he had to come to terms with. I’m really glad we got to do this class and that it avoided the current trajectory of how these issues are being handled. We really do need healing that Jesus offers, not persistent agitation and strife.

With that, I’ll sign off and get to the remaining hours of 2020 with work, my traditional New Year’s eve gumbo and relaxation with hubby. By the way, we’ll be celebrating 2 years next month. Woot! God’s timing may seem delayed but it is always right on time.

Happy New Year!

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