3 Unexpected Gifts of 2020
A morning swim at the outdoor pools, with the glorious sun on my back. A coffee in a cafe, breathing in the scent of freshly grounded coffee beans. A haircut at the hairdresser’s, watching dead ends snipped away.
Just a few short months ago, the idea of being able to do any of the above seemed like an impossible reality.
For many of us, the past year has felt like we’ve been living in a dystopian universe. From surviving tough social restrictions to multiple lockdowns, 2020 has tested our endurance.
For me, I’ve been slowly watching my carefully laid plans crumble around my ears. Plans of visiting my parents in New Zealand, attending a friend’s wedding overseas, and competing in sporting events, slowly evaporated before my eyes as Covid-19 restrictions came into place, hard and fast.
When I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the hope of a potential relationship, which I thought would help me weather Covid-19 better, was taken away too.
Before I knew it, I had slipped into a dark place. I found getting out of bed really hard, and the bleak winter weather, days of low 10 degrees Celsius with the rain whipping outside, didn’t help. I tried thinking positive thoughts and practising an attitude of gratitude (such as, “Thank you God that I still have a job, a roof over my head, hot showers in the evening”), but I soon found myself jaded from it all.
To keep myself occupied, my waking hours were spent snacking on chocolate biscuits, online shopping, and obsessively tracking my parcels. Alas, stuffing my face with snacks and opening my parcels bought me a temporary relief that lasted only about 10 minutes, because reality would bite, reminding me that the reason I’m only an arm’s length away from my fridge or having all these parcels show up at my door was because I’m stuck indoors, with little to do, and nowhere to go.
Now that Melbourne’s back to a new normal, and 2020 is inching to a close, I can safely say I wouldn’t have made it through the past 12-months without these three gifts:
1. The strong bond of friendship
I often feel like friendship does not get the rep that it deserves, and it can be so easy to classify friendship as a “second-class relationship” until we’ve found our “significant other”. But the genuine friendships I experienced over the last few months showed me how wrong that line of thought is, and just how important it is to surround ourselves with strong friendships—whether we’re single, dating, or married.
When the fatigue of the never-ending lockdown, coupled with the personal hurts and disappointments I was experiencing, pushed in relentlessly on me, my friends (and my sister), both near and far, banded together to cheer me on. Support came in the form of food deliveries and surprise parcels, virtual makeup lessons, offers for prayer, and most importantly, their willingness to lend a non-judgmental listening ear for those days when things got incredibly hard.
Scripture says two is better than one because if one of them falls down, one can help another up (Ecclesiastes 4:10) and this couldn’t have been truer for me this year.
2. The sure and steady anchor of hope
Over the last seven months, I’ve seen my hope see-saw on a daily basis. If it was a good news day of no new cases, my hope went up. If it was a bad news day of reported new cases, my hope plunged. On most days, I wondered how God was able to handle my petulant cries of, “Will this ever end? Will you really see us through all of this?”
Of course, this was only happening because I had placed my hope in something as fickle as the news or my circumstances. But while the news is ever changing (along with Melbourne’s unpredictable weather), there’s One person who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and that’s Jesus. In Him, we have this “hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).
As I began to hold on to and anchor myself in Him, I reminded myself that the God who has been so good to me in the past is the same God who’s walking with me in my despair. And I reasoned (as hard as it was), that this same God who has seen many world wars and conflicts, will see us through Covid-19.
And slowly but surely, He began to change the way I viewed my circumstances too.
3. The tested muscles of faith
As cliche as this sounds, my faith muscles were truly tested over these last few months, especially on days when I woke up feeling less than stellar, when all I could think of were the hurts and disappointments caused by a friend, and when I wasn’t sure if we’d ever get out of this pandemic.
But one thing I knew I had to continue doing, even though the days were bleak and I had no strength to keep going, was to continue strengthening my wobbly muscles, which I did by listening to worship songs and reading devotions. The worship songs helped me pray on days when I couldn’t utter a word, and the devotions nudged me along in my Bible-reading, when all I wanted to do was lie on the floor and sulk.
Long and hard the days were, but I had Psalm 27:13, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” etched at the back of my mind. Each time I hit a dead end, I reminded myself, surely something good will come out of this, right?
And you know what, God in His own time did bring something good out of those desolate days. It started with falling case numbers, followed with eased restrictions, and my happiest day was when the outdoor pools reopened.
Over the past few months, God showed me that the “good life” is often made up of the littlest things I have often taken for granted—being able to head out to the pools, enjoy a cup of coffee, or even travel 5km beyond my neighbourhood.
Pre-Covid-19 me had also fallen into the trap of believing that I needed a boyfriend for my life to be complete, but the new me can confidently say I don’t need a boyfriend (or a husband) to live. Even though I was angry at God for not answering my prayer the way I hoped He would, I could see that God’s “no” comes out of a loving heart, and He had already given me what I needed—His very own son, and good, genuine friends whom I can share my life with and be a part of theirs.
I don’t know what 2021 will hold for me, or for many of us. Perhaps we’ll get to travel again or go back to living our lives the way we did before the virus, or perhaps things will never be the same again.
As for me, I know that I can plan my life right down to the finest detail, but it’s God who establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9). I also know that life can belly-up in an instant, but God is the rock of all ages (Isaiah 26:4), and I don’t need annual overseas trips or special occasions to make my year count, but having Jesus as the centre of my life allows me to live each day with purpose.
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