(Thanks for waiting on this! The storm knocked our power out last night! No damage at our house, but it did blow our Walmart kiddie pool into a tree!)
The first Sunday of 2020 was January 5th and I would be interested to know how many people heard a "2020 vision" message from the pulpits? 2020 vision was that low hanging fruit for all pastoral leaders this year. And why not? Clarity in our faith is a huge benefit that can be afforded to us by commitment and prayer. Spending time in God's Word, building relationships with other believers, and asking for God's desires to replace our own should create a greenhouse for flourishing vision.
Except... I made a birthday cake for Josh this year that said "Happy Quarantine Birthday" *insert thinking face emoji*
How does that add up? As a planner, I do everything I can to disaster-proof my life and global pandemic just wasn't on my list. What if someone had stood up in the middle of all the chatter about 2020 vision and said "Actually, I think this year will be the year that we've NEVER seen before. The American way of life will literally be turned upside down. People will be forced into their homes and they will have to find a way to sustain their paycheck without going to work. We won't be able to gather for meals, socializing, or even worship. Why? Because of a virus that stumps modern medicine-- no one will know how to treat it so the only response is to quarantine the entire planet." I think a resounding "get this guy outta here!" would have been in order. Who is this person to tell me that my job is going to halt or my kids won't go to school or that my health could be at risk? Those are the things I want the clarity for! Personally, I probably would have started the riot because this year was going to be a "legacy" focused year for me. 2019 was rough-- I became unemployed after a very stressful year, my grandmother died, and I was helping carry some burdens for others that had be kept a secret. I NEEDED the 2020 vision. I would have fought someone for it.
Embarking on the new year, I believed whole-heartedly that my questions would be answered and it would be the inception of a legacy birthed out of an extremely hard season. I had done that when my husband was injured in 2012, I could do it again.
If I could give it a grade, I truly think my family is experiencing A+ growth during the quarantine because of one crucial component that I need to share:
We cannot expect to grow if we think we already know what we're supposed to learn.
Back in January, I was thankful for the end of 2019 because I had begun dreaming about what the future would hold for me. I don't think it's wrong to visualize the future; in fact, I think it's imperative! But I entered 2020 believing I already knew what I was supposed to achieve and receive. I'm 100% sure that my dreamy thoughts didn't take place within a fear-stricken world over a virus. In fact, I kind of planned on fostering my giftedness through a well-suited job and more manageable schedule. Yet, when I look back at my life, my most fruitful season was the time spent rehabilitating my husband after he was almost killed in an explosion-- the most unexpected, uncharted event in my history. How? There was no rulebook, no guidelines, no one to come alongside us and say "here's how you get healthy fast and keep your marriage and sanity intact." You couldn't bring a list of goals or demands to a situation like that because the next five minutes weren't guaranteed. As a result, our grip was immediately loosed and our hearts were open to whatever it took. When your loved one's livelihood hangs in the balance of life and death everyday, the only thing you can promise is your best effort.
How often to we pigeon-hole our effort into the things we think will be beneficial? We labor because we believe certain steps equal certain results. Those beliefs don't come out of thin air; intelligent people can look around and see a trail of breadcrumbs left by those that are further along. We think if we can follow those steps and repeat the formula, we can experience the same growth. It's well intentioned, but it negates the individual plan God set before each of us. Because we don't receive the plan the minute we are born, we are tempted to copy even though we rarely successfully paste it into our own plan. It's a technique that spends most of it's effort trying to keep a grip on what we think should happen rather than remaining open to what is meant to happen. Effort with flexibility takes us from the treadmill to the trail. Both modes of exercise count as running, both will burn calories, but only one offers a unique journey.
I truly believe that my family will receive the clarity that was preached across the nation back in January because just like my experience at Walter Reed, I learned what was important by subtraction not addition. It poses the question: if my life were just this, what are the things that actually matter to me? If I got over how I wanted to do things, maybe I could actually do them better?
God doesn't yield to what we know (thank goodness), but He won't force us to see the positive, the learning experience, or the opportunity. That's our job. And without faith, we will see it all through the filter of inconvenience.
If we are fortunate enough to evade infection from this deadly disease, then we need to make sure we are equipped to be used for the good when we can be released back into the world. If we spend this time tapping our foot and staring at the clock to see when it's going to be over, the world will overwhelm us like a Black Friday sale. On day one back in the office or at school, let's be sure of who we are and smart enough to not jump off the cliff with the rest of the crowd. Let's trust that God's with us and is saying "before I let you go, I need to show you some things first. I need you closer to me so the world won't distract you like it used to. I want my voice louder than your boss's or your anxiety this time. Spend it with me and it won't be in vain."
Wouldn't it be great to emerge from a global pandemic and credit the chaos, the change, and the uncharted waters with giving you the courage to embrace the journey instead of rush to the results. A discipline that instills joy over happiness and gratitude over grumbling. If this is how we get that 2020 vision, then let's make sure we don't miss it!