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2021: A Fresh Start or More of the Same?

A Look Back 

Happy new year! Jumanji! If you’re reading this...we made it! We survived one of the craziest years in recent memory. 2020 has come, wreaked havoc, and gone. Not everyone made it through. 

When I look back at the last 12 months of the human experience, I think back to the hopeful optimism that came with not just a new year, but a new decade. It seems every decade is defined by some notable cultural shifts, trends and memorable events, and I was excited to see what that would look like in the 2020s. In January of 2020, like most of us, it never even crossed my mind that within 3 months, life as we knew it would effectively cease to exist. 

I heard the very first reports of “a new strain of coronavirus” about 2 weeks into January, and reacted about the same as just about everyone else. “Sure, this is like, what, the 6th extinction-level event to come out in the last decade or so?” I remembered hearing reports of outbreaks of SARS, wild bird flu, swine flu, and ebola over the years. I remembered hearing a lot of concern for every one of these outbreaks absolutely dominate the news cycle for about a month or so. Then the chatter would die down in the news, and the rest of us would go on about or normal lives, unaffected. I fully expected the same to prove true of COVID-19. 

Then the confirmed case count started doubling and tripling daily. The death count continued to rise as well. Reports came out of hospitals all over the country starting to feel overwhelmed. I remember thinking that this was starting to feel more serious.

Then in March of 2020, the shutdowns began. Sports leagues cancelled their seasons. Professional wrestling became an empty-arena show for the major companies, while indie promotions paused or closed entirely. Every day there seemed to be more questions than answers as medical experts struggled to learn as much as they could about this new virus. New terminology was introduced into public vernacular such as “social distancing” “flatten the curve” “PPE” “quarantine” and “stay home, save lives.” Working from home went from being a dream scenario to a necessity. Schools closed, and teachers and students alike had to scramble to adapt to a digital schooling environment. Churches couldn’t host in-person worship services, many of which had never established any sort of online presence and had to quickly learn how to connect online. Digital meeting platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangouts struggled beneath the weight of the heightened traffic load.

3 weeks to flatten the curve turned into two months. As spring turned into summer, more and more normalcy started to return, albeit not very normal at all. Most businesses required masks in order to enter, as mandated by state governors. Most restaurants opened up their indoor dining rooms at a reduced capacity (my favorite restaurant in town didn’t do so until October). Just about any time I drive past Wal-Mart I see a line of people waiting to enter. 

In May, a black man named George Floyd was killed in police custody, which sparked national outrage, protests, riots, and debates about racism worldwide over the summer. As additional instances of police brutality against people of color took place, police and policing as a whole came under even greater scrutiny. 

The entire 2020 presidential election season was an absolute sham and a national disgrace the likes of which, were I a partaker in alcoholic beverages, I would have absolutely murdered my liver in an attempt to forget. I actually deactivated my Facebook account between September and December because I wanted nothing to do with the ensuing toxic discourse that I knew was coming.

Then, just like that, The Most Wonderful Time of the YearTM was upon us. The 2020 Christmas & holiday season was an injection of hope many of us were thirsting for. Not all of us got to enjoy it to the fullest as many of us were painfully aware of empty chairs at the table because of the pandemic, but still, many of us did the best we could to make the most of it. And as it drew to a close, along with 2020 as a whole, we repeated a sentiment that had been woven throughout the entire year... “I can’t wait to get out of this terrible year and into 2021, which will surely be better!”

What Comes Next?

At the time of writing, we are now 8 days into 2021. Two vaccines for COVID-19 are slowly making their ways through the medical and first responder communities, with public rollout expected in the summer. Yet the debates over their ingredients or necessity rage on. Just yesterday, violence broke out in Washington, DC as Congress worked to certify the results of the 2020 election, with many “theories” as to the legitimacy of said election (I will say no more on this topic). It would seem that 2021 did not magically erase the woes brought on by 2020 like many of us seemed to think that it would.

So where do we go from here? I find myself asking this question more and more often than ever before these days. What’s in store for us as we move forward into a year for which we already had unrealistic expectations?

Full cards on the table: I am an evangelical Christian, unashamed and unabashed. My faith has been tested many times over the last year, yet it persists to this day because I hold strong to the belief that no matter what happens in this life, it is but a vapor in the grand scheme of eternity, and this world is not my home. Just last night I was given a passage of scripture that I believe we should all heed as we move forward in these uncertain times.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. –Psalms 3:5-8 (ESV)

I don’t know what’s waiting for us around the bend in 2021. I genuinely hope and pray that we experience more kindness and joy this year than we did last year. I genuinely hope and pray that good, positive change takes place that we are able to see and experience. But no matter what, I believe that the most important thing any of us can do is trust God through it all. Regardless of the good or the bad, He can be our constant. He can be our anchor. If we will repent of our sins and turn to Him, He will give us the strength to persevere through the dark days. 

When it’s all said and done, I hope and pray that the greatest lesson 2020 taught us was how to treat each other. If yesterday’s events are any indication, obviously not everyone got the message. But hopefully that is not a harbinger of things to come, but rather the death throes of an old way of dealing with things. I suppose time will tell, but regardless, may we turn our hearts to our Heavenly Father and embrace His love and mercy, lest we be found wanting at the gates in a place where no date written on any calendar holds relevancy. Amen.

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