Here we are at Thanksgiving, and you’re now on the way out the door. It seems like I have much more to complain about this year than to be thankful for, but maybe that’s because I’m not looking in the right places. Like Mr. Davis, my 9th grade biology teacher, you’ve been difficult and demanded a lot, but I must admit you have taught me many important lessons that I wouldn’t have learned if you’d kept life as smooth and carefree as many of your predecessors.
First, thank you for stripping away non-essential elements of my life. You’ve revealed that many of the activities I enjoy and the ministries in which I serve are not nearly as important I thought they were. Spending time at home without extraneous activities has provided an opportunity to reevaluate what is necessary in my life. Busyness is not godliness. In fact, sometimes busyness serves to cover up rank ungodliness. You’ve unmasked that. Thank you.
You’ve also revealed many idols in my heart that had previously lain dormant. You’ve shown that I often prize my health and safety, my agenda and my liberty more than I prize God. I’m prone to sacrifice obedience to Him in order to attain these other things. May He forgive me!
You’ve also taught me to love my neighbor in a whole new way. Because the virus you introduced is so virulent to the elderly and immune-compromised, I’ve had to alter my way of life. That’s been downright annoying sometimes, but it’s also reminded me of Jesus’ words: ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matt 25:40). Thank you for reminding me that every life is precious.
Apparently learning to love my neighbor through a global pandemic wasn’t enough, so you decided to shine a spotlight on racial tension as well. This has quite possibly been more uncomfortable than the sheltering in place and wearing masks. However, I’m grateful that you have begun an awakening of compassion in my heart for the genuine hurt and, at times, unfair treatment that my black neighbors have endured. Thank you.
You’ve also taught me that I’m not as strong as I’d like to think. I am weak and vulnerable, susceptible to illness, and, more than that, susceptible to fear. I saw my own heart shaken as the coronavirus made its way to the United States and again as I watched election numbers come in. Psalm 27:1 has taken on a new meaning: “The LORD is my light and my salvation. Of whom shall I be afraid?” Thank you for reminding me that “the nearness of God is my good” (Psalm 73:28).
Finally, you’ve taught me that unity, particularly with my brothers and sisters in Christ, is something worth fighting for. Pandemic, politics, and protocols have all tried our unity in unique ways. A year ago, we never would have imagined that a piece of cloth over our faces could cause division within the Church. But it has. Thank you for the hard lesson in striving and thriving together. Loving my local church body will not mean that I agree with them all the time or that we’ll be on the same page on every issue. It does mean that I must focus on the truth that unites us. We are one in Christ, and while I have an obligation to them (and them to me) to help them grow in holiness, that obligation does not require that we draw lines in all the same places. If I really want unity, I have to fight my own pride to put those matters of preference aside and love.
For all of these things, and so much more, thank you, 2020. But really, thank you, precious Father. Every good and perfect gift—even if it’s a gift that I don’t like very much—is from You. You are not the author of confusion, but the Author of peace. Thank You for reminding me over and over again this year that you are the one and true King. You are on Your throne, and You will not be shaken.