Over the last five years or so, I’ve used the last week of the calendar year as an opportunity to do some personal reflection. Regardless what calendar year it is, people seem to have a lot of pretty passionate opinions on “New Years” from loathing to celebrating in excess… for me this was a middle ground way to try to make it a bit more productive. So the days preceding New Years Eve, I would write a letter to myself that I read the following year. It’s a type of “recap” of the year. Highlights, difficulties, triumphs, set backs – as well as things I was praying about, worrying about, angsting over. It’s been about 5 years now that I’ve been doing it and I’m grateful for this annual “time capsule.” Going back and re-reading some snap shots of what my impressions of what had passed and hopes in the year to come has been fruitful personally.
Anyway, one of the things that re-reading these letters triggered was a memory of a blog post that I wrote last year – BAD THINGS HAPPEN, MISERY IS A CHOICE 2019 had been eventful and revelatory for a number of reasons, but that was one of the over riding summary points of reflection for me. One of the things that I was struck with was the importance of perspective, attitude, gratitude. Was I going to choose to let things that had hurt and disappoint me define things and weigh me down? Or could I acknowledge them but choose not to dwell on them.
Very quickly in 2020 that was put to a challenge. In January I was in a car accident. Not a big deal (Thank God) but I will never forget sitting in my car, waiting for the police to arrive to make a report and feeling that fork in the road – will I get ticked off right now or will I choose to be grateful – that this wasn’t a serious thing, that I and the other driver wasn’t hurt; that I had insurance; that I had friends who would help me to get this taken care of… Logically, writing about this from the safety and comfort of my couch, it seems like a no brainer. But I remember sitting there and having a clarity like I had never had before where it was like Jesus sitting next to me and saying “so how are you going to handle this?”
I’m not going to lie, it was harder than I anticipated. I was tempted to really go into self-pity and furry… And was thankful that I was able to catch myself and not do that… and to even post this on social media not to brag but as a way of accountability. Because I knew I had enough friends and family who if I complained would be ready to offer “fraternal correction.”
Never did I imagine how minor all of that would have been in the rest of the year that followed. As I think about all that happened in the days, weeks and months of 2020, a car accident which resulted in having to get my drivers door replaced – doesn’t seem worth mentioning. Except for this – it was a great practice run for the rest of the year.
I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t encounter frustrations, anger, depressing thoughts and feelings as it seemed everyone and everything was impacted by the viral pandemic, by tensions and divisions in our country, our Church (echoed by our friends and families). In the midst of that, my annual letter to myself resulted in daily journaling with one part of it being requiring me to every day write three things I was grateful for. Just that daily practice, just that demand to sometimes have to really think and dig deep about something I could praise God for, has proven invaluable. And helped me revisit the title of this post with a bit more positive perspective. I don’t want to put any emphasis on the reality of bad things happening – which seems a part of each and everyone of our lives. Nor do I want to dwell on my own culpability when I choose to be miserable. Instead, I want to put more focus on the truth that Joy is an awareness of God’s presence even when things aren’t necessarily happy. And peace is not the absence of conflict but a confidence that God is in control of everything even in the face of what is unsettled.
That was something I was trying to pray into 2020 with. That is something I’m all the more aware of and grateful for as 2020 ends.
May we thank our good God for the many good gifts and blessings of 2020. They are there if we choose to look for them. They will be the seeds of blessings to a Happy and Healthy 2021.