We enter a New Year with a sense of caution but also with great hope.
Recently someone asked me what title I might give the year 2020. The first thing that came to mind was “holy grit.” Many of us have learned in a new way what it means to dig deep to mine the dregs of our spiritual and emotional reserve. It is messy, exhausting, and at times desperate.
I have watched friends walk through painful events – things that, under more ordinary circumstances would be extremely trying: loss of loved ones to cancer, to COVID, to alcoholism and addiction. Loss of jobs, delay of opportunities that this time last year had been within reach. In June a man in our pantry line shared that he was next to be rehired at his company – just as soon as the pandemic is behind us.
The tragedies and challenges have at times seemed unjustly harsh and relentless, wreaking havoc, one after another. In moments of utter exhaustion and emotional depletion, when it can seem that the universe is unnecessarily cruel, how do I explain to someone in the midst of their suffering that God loves them? That Christ is with them?
At this writing I just learned of two friends who had to say goodbye to a cherished adult son, who was on life support following a sudden cardiac event. Life can be so cruel. Surrender is the only way through. To trust that somehow God will make a way for us. Somehow there will be enough to sustain us. An old friend long gone used to say “You always get what you need but never five minutes too soon. Never a nickel more.”
A stable with a manger: definitely not a nickel more for Mary, for Joseph. Yet they surrendered though the circumstances were not ideal, were not what they imagined or dreamed. When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, marking the beginning of a series of events that would forever change her life, forever change the world, she responded May it be with me according to your word. Even as she agreed, Mary surely could not imagine how all that she was told would come to pass, how events would unfold over the years. If she could, she may not have said yes.
We will always have questions, many unanswered at least in the ways we’d like them answered, especially when the heat is on. For me this requires daily – sometimes moment-by-moment – surrender. It requires digging deep, leaning on prayer and an inner reserve of grit to keep going, to focus on what I can affect rather than being victim to those things outside my control.
We must dare to believe that the light shines most brightly in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. Sometimes, as we peer into the night of our lives, all we can find is the faintest glimmer, and sometimes only after much waiting, much seeking. But that glimmer is enough.