In years past, New Year’s Eve would be an evening of communal sharing, gathering with friends and loved ones to commemorate another year gone by; a celebration of the year’s accomplishments and a euphoric toast to greater things ahead.
To say that New Year’s Eve 2020 looks wildly different would be an understatement. The annual gaiety and feverish resolution planning has been replaced by a pervasive mournfulness, a somber, global remembrance of all the things we’ve lost this year: the loss of human connection, the loss of security and global enterprise, and of course, the loss of life — countless lives — the numbers shocking in their enormity.
This year, due to the social, economic, political, and civil upheavals that have drawn contours around our nation and the world, I wonder if, in the process of pursuing ‘woke enlightenment’, we have not instead lost something very precious. Have we, in our haste to become ‘cancel culture’ icons, canceled out the very qualities that allow us to approach sensitive and critical social topics with clear headed empathy and morality? Have we, in our thirst for social justice, in our haste to castigate and reverse the implications of long-standing institutions, become social arbiters of our own blighted hypocrisy?
Have we lost that most precious ability to love our neighbors as ourselves — the ability to not draw battle lines along political chasms, but to see one another for who we are, and, if we don’t like what we see, follow in the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln and say, ‘I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.’ In short, have our fragile egos overshadowed our hearts?
It’s hard — very hard — to reflect on the past year and not be disappointed in the individual self and collective body. There has been so much vitriolic war mongering in 280 characters or less that it’s a wonder that we haven’t utterly destroyed the earth.
In a maelstrom of emotional momentum, rabid discontent, and information overload, it seems we have lost much, including our collective minds.
As we look ahead to 2021 in what do we place our hopes? Some say hope lies in the promise of a vaccine and global inoculation. Others, in the shifts in political order and governance. And while a vaccine and new laws may heal the immediate, physical needs, it will take more than institutional and chemical bodies to facilitate the kind of internal, soul healing that’s needed on a massive scale.
In the darkest moments of history there has always been hope. Hope for a tomorrow in which the morning is not filled with mourning, hope for a future in which children can be free to be children without fear or worry or depression. This hope endures because there have always been individuals who have risen to the challenge of rising above the most formidable circumstances. Individuals who have inspired love, courage, and sacrificial selflessness in a pursuit of that most humble ambition: to become ‘the least of these’. The people I speak of are not the blue checkmarks of the social media world, or the blatant self-seekers with overtly public displays of rare charity. I am talking about the people all around us, our neighbors, our loved ones, complete strangers.
And as we look for the goodness and light without, we cannot forget to look within. The very best qualities of humanity, of generosity, courage, love, and humility are present in each and every single one of us. We are, each of us, lights to the world, capable of great humanity and greater action.
I look to the wisdom and encouragement of Philippians 2: 1–18 and remind myself that true victory in this life is not found in the wealth and prestige of worldly acceptance, nor is it found in the temporal tastes of luxury and comfort. True, resounding victory lies in the emptying of the self and taking the humble stance of a servant, ready to act, ready to serve, ready to love. I look upwards to Christ as the ultimate exemplar of love and forgiveness — the true arbiter of justice, peace, and healing.
I look upwards to Christ in order to descend from my perch of self-righteousness, and find that things always start to look up when I finally start looking up.
As I reflect on the past year there is no shortage of grief and mourning, but there is also a pervasive gratitude for countless blessings and Godly interventions. And as I look to the year ahead my hope rests in this: that Christ’s love would so infuse every aspect and element of life that we will be grateful for the tears shed, the things that we have lost, and ultimately the things that we have found.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4: 17–18)
Kathryn is the founder of That’s What She. After years spent roaming through the wilderness, she met Christ as an adult and hasn’t looked back. An avid lover of storytelling and prone to run-ons, she hopes to embark on this journey with all of you and learn quite a few things along the way.
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