Updated: Mar 26, 2021
Reflections on 2020
So much shame and guilt. Spending any time on social media sent my mind and heart into a tailspin. I would frantically think, “I am woefully inept in black history in America. I wish I had a better grasp on political history in America and the roots of our government. I wish I understood immunology better or had a better grasp on virology to help my friends navigate this mess with science. I wish I didn’t feel so incredibly sad myself so I could reach out to the women in our church; I know they’re hurting, but I’m hurting too and I feel like I cannot move. I am tired of watching families walk through their child’s death. I am ashamed that I feel so tired. Why am I not feeling compassion anymore? Why do I feel so incredibly numb? Why is no one thinking of their loved ones dying alone in a hospital bed when they don’t want to wear a mask? I wish I could view this season with my kids as a blessing and not feel as though I am suffocating. Why is no one talking about human trafficking and the presence of slavery in our culture today? Why am I yelling at this person in my head right now; they are simply expressing their views on the biggest problem today... it is the ache of their heart. Why are you yelling at them?”
Put on repeat. About a million times over last year. Throw in the difficulty of navigating every single decision with prudence and reason. Last year, the mess of my heart met its match.
Nothing bad happened to me in 2020. Not really. So please hear my heart to you if devastation met you last year. You are in a true place of raw, aching pain, and I see you. My heart aches alongside yours, but I don’t understand your pain fully. I can’t. And I’m so sorry.
But what I feel important to address—mainly because I spent much of last year in such a mental fog—serves as a personal commentary on the year. We are all aching. We are battered, bruised, lacerated and cut deep. Our wounds are festering and if we don’t allow them to be cleaned and dressed with a better bandage than “more of the same 2020 had to offer,” I fear we will careen, once again, into a toxic overwhelming sepsis of our hearts, minds and souls.
The ache of...
...telling your son how to act around police officers because of the color of his skin. Real.
...dying alone in a hospital from a virus that has ravished the world. Real.
...the fear that the freedoms we’ve cherished in this country are slipping. Real.
...realizing those freedoms aren’t really offered equally to all Americans. Real.
...human trafficking and the number of girls and women all over the world living in fear for their lives, agency and bodies. Real.
...millions of children whose lives are snuffed out before they had a chance because we are so flawed and broken as a society to have a place ready for them once they’re here. Real.
...the depression and despair you feel looking at your body in the mirror and it not being a reflection of who you are. Real.
...hurt from organized religion... the ways it has taken the Word of God and twisted it to manipulate, malign, separate and distort what God’s true Love looks like. Real.
...losing your baby. Real.
...grieving your baby in a society that doesn’t recognize his or her loss as such. Real.
...scrolling through social media on any given day to see sarcasm, hatred, and vitriol as commonplace as the ads Facebook generates through their tailor-made algorithms. Real.
...women all over the world living in totalitarian, patriarchal societies that have no hope, no chance of freedom, and are essentially slaves to the culture they were born into that despised them from the start and abuses them to the end. Real.
...the families so desperate to flee some of those places that they will risk illegally crossing our border for the hope of a different life. Real.
...our broken foster and adoption system that fails our kids every single day. Not for lack of work and care of those in their field, but the bureaucracy that hinders its aid. Real.
...all those who have been out of work for months with limited prospects in sight. Real.
...of empty bellies today. Real.
...our stressed educational system this year, and all the flexibility of our educators to overcome the onslaught of changes. Real.
...parenting a child with special needs, and advocating for them this year when healthcare has been so strained. Real.
...emotional burdens placed on the backs of our healthcare workers as they shouldered the front lines of COVID. Their hearts, minds and souls won’t ever be the same. Real.
...relationships strained this year from everyone working from home. Real.
...tired moms and dads who aren’t used to hours and days and weeks and months with their kids without school and activities to occupy time. Real.
...pastors caring for churches through the complexities of virtual, in-person, community outreach events while balancing the emotional health and their physical health of their congregants. Real.
...my 90-year-old grandma in an apartment with her 70-year-old son with brain damage for months; living the last of days in isolation away from the people she loves—the people she’s given her life to care for. Real.
...caregivers during this pandemic who have shouldered the weight of their aging family members alone. Real.
If I haven’t spoken to your particular ache, I am truly sorry. I am. There is just so much hurt. So much pain. So much aching. People are hurting. Every one of us is hurting. That list isn’t comprehensive. It’s only the things I could think of this morning as I’m writing down these broken words. But I hope that you can see the overwhelming nature of the problem.
There is no humanly way possible that I could tackle each one of those problems. Maybe I could pick five since some of them include my family, but beyond that, what good can I do—truly—to global hunger or the mistreatment of women in patriarchal societies today? I could look at that list and feel paralyzed with my incapability to make any kind of lasting difference in anything.
Or I could choose today to be the day that I am not going to add any more to any one else’s wounds. I am going to acknowledge that they have pains I am unaware of—that I literally cannot understand—and I will choose compassion today instead. I will choose today to ask questions of the person sitting across from me—virtually or in real life. I will ask them about what pains them today and I will have compassion. There are several things on that very long list that fire me up. Make me so angry that I live in a world where they still exist that I punch my pillow and weep until it’s wet. I will commit my life to addressing that small corner of this dark, hurting world and helping to heal whatever hurts I can.
But I refuse to believe the lie of limitless knowledge anymore. I refuse to take on responsibility for it all the time. I literally CANNOT learn enough to tackle even ONE of those incredibly real and hurtful issues. That’s why it takes a lifetime for people to be experts in their fields. Is there someone who is an expert in it all? That’s just not possible. So neither will I expect that from myself.
Nor should you. Please stop assuming that because you view the world from one direction—your unique and beautiful point of view that is both a mix of who you are and what you’ve experienced—that anyone seeing a different angle is your enemy. Please stop maligning someone else’s area of passion because it isn’t the one that makes your blood boil. Choose compassion. Seek understanding in what ways you can. Can we please stop using the soiled bandages of 2020’s methods of communicating with one another to dress these wounds? There is too much at stake.
If you have no idea where to go from here, can I make a suggestion? Think of the person hurting you right now—a spouse, a neighbor, a coworker, whomever—and seek to forgive them. Seek to understand them. They may not respond in a way that’s loving—they may still be using 2020’s bandages—but love them anyway. How can we be so arrogant to think that we can change the world with an Instagram repost and refuse to forgive the actual person in our life who hurts us? We have to start there. Let’s start with forgiveness. Let’s start with compassion. Let’s start feeling again.