Don’t Write Off 2020!

This week marks the first anniversary for all the COVID-19 restrictions. Here is a quick recap:

  1. One year ago this week, the leaders at my old company made the decision to ask everyone to work from home until further notice. Previously, WFH was reserved for special cases. Suddenly, that was for everyone and they meant everyone, minus the facilities and IT team who had to take care of the on-site servers.
  2. One year ago, this was the first time anyone reported shortages in the supermarket – no toilet papers; you could only buy a limited amount of bread and meat.
  3. One year ago, churches were told to not meet in person until further notice. Soon, many churches began streaming their services on YouTube or other streaming services. Church small groups met on Zoom or Skype.
  4. One year ago, everyone started wearing masks in public areas. Speaking of public areas, everyone was told not to congregate publicly unless they had a very good reason. Even then, in some states, the police fined you any way.
  5. Restaurants and hair salons were asked to close.

Then more bad news came. Whether it was the race riots, loss of jobs and the slowing down of the economy, or deaths due to COVID, or the contentious presidential election, it just kept coming. Everyone was wondering if there was an end to our troubles.

Oh, and I should mention that in November 2020, my old company and I parted ways after almost ten years. I had no new job lined up.

That was just 2020. Even as November and December 2020 came, everyone was ready to write off the year. The general sentiment was to try to forget about everything that happened. This is not to say 2021 was better.

That sentiment makes me very uncomfortable.

Looking back at my own history – the events in the 2000s and those in 2019, I believed that new circumstances – a new job or a new tooth or resetting my brain – would solve all my physical and emotional problems. Ultimately, I wanted to be pain free – physical or emotional. Why shouldn’t 2020 be different?

First of all, I believe that attitude is wrong.

Pain is a great teacher.

Not all pain is created equal. The pain I feel as a surgeon removes the fragments of my broken tooth is not a harm. Moreover, that pain is only temporary. Once the surgery is over and the recovery begin, the pain is forgotten. I might comment on it as I tell my friends about what happened, but I don’t feel it.

Pain during surgery makes me appreciate my doctors even more. My new regular dentist and the specialist were skillful men and they and their staff kept me calm.

As Christians, we have a Great Healer in Christ. While he was on earth, Jesus healed hundreds of people. Some were dramatic miracles and the details are in the Gospels. Others had no details – just that Jesus laid his hands on them and they were healed. Whether you are healed by miracle or medicine, ultimately God gets all the glory.

Pain is a paradox when it comes to revealing truths about us. Even as pain tells us there is something wrong with us, it forces us to get out of our self-centeredness. It forces us to go outside to find help. For example, I have yet to find anyone who has successfully conducted oral surgery on themselves. Furthermore, even as we reach out for help, we find others who have suffered the same pain and loss. We are comforted by the thought that we are not along. We can then turn around and comfort those who are just starting the same journey of healing.

Treat Difficulties as Pivot Points

Anyone who has taken any martial arts know that you need one stable point even as the rest of your body is motion. Even as I am throwing a one-two jab-cross combination with power from my hips and arms, my back foot is rock steady. A push-kick with the right foot requires a balanced left foot with a follow-through strike then switches feet as the stable point.

I suggest that we treat the difficulties we faced in 2020 as pivot points for the better. Instead of complaining about troubles or forgetting about them, why not use 2020 as a pivot point? I lost my job and found another one – one that both challenges me and also more in line with my interests. Yet, I would not have that new job and stage in life without going through loss.

What may be a negative might actually be a positive.

What may look harmful is actually beneficial.

I am not minimizing the losses and hurts we all experienced this past year. I lost my one of my grandaunts in June 2020; she passed away after dealing with pancreatic cancer. Before that, she was a three-time cancer survivor. Around the same time, one of her brothers also passed away due to old age. There is nothing good about death itself. However, from out of these difficulties, our family and extended family have more Zoom calls, even if we are halfway around the world. Tentative plans to reunite are made.

Ultimately, it is a matter of perspective. If you dismiss the times of pain and suffering, you also miss the opportunity to treat those injuries. As Christian authors Jay and Katherine Wolf put it, to not deal with our emotional trauma is to put a band-aid over a gaping wound. You will miss out on a time of growth and growth is something that we all need.

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