It’s ironic that our most difficult times are frequently our most memorable times. My father got visibly angry with me exactly twice (both times well deserved!) when I was kid. I remember those two moments more vividly than I remember any of the countless games of catch we played. What’s up with that?
Evolutionary biologists would chalk this up to our survival instinct. Difficult or threatening experiences get wired deep into our brains so that we can avoid similar situations in the future for survival purposes. Not a bad theory.
From a spiritual perspective, I wonder if there might be something even deeper going on. What if our propensity for remembering pain allows us to contrast our past difficulties with gratitude for the present? Wouldn’t that be a genius aspect of the human design? A built in factory that produced day after day of thankful living — all thanks to memory.
What if 2020 is the year that makes us more grateful for every other year? We might be living in the midst of the year that we’ll be referencing as “remember when..?” for the rest of our lives.
My wife and I lived in Hungary for a portion of 1994. We did it mainly to help and serve in a context that was just coming out from under the cloud of an oppressive, Communist government. It was an adventure, but also a hard season: living in a land where we were cultural and linguistic outsiders. We rarely stayed in the same town or slept in the same bed for more than a few nights at a time. We often didn’t know when — or what — we would eat. And — lest these seem like complaints — this was the most memorable year of our lives. It’s the moment from our early 20s by which we date and orient all our other young married experiences.
I believe this year, by God’s grace, will function in a similar way. All of us will forever remember where we were and what we were doing (or not doing) in 2020. This will be the year of “remember when” and — if we let it — be part of God’s plan to grow the fruit of gratitude in our lives.
Just yesterday, my wife Sarah (a nurse by profession) received the Pfizer COVID vaccine. I don’t think I’ve ever been so interested in or enthusiastic about a shot in my entire life! How memorable! How grateful I am for this moment!
I have high hopes that our Christmas celebrations of 2020 might also be part of making the close of this year unique and memorable. Around church, most of our activities and ways of honoring Jesus’s birth have had to creatively flex to accommodate COVID dynamics. Here are just a few examples:
- We had a massive toy give away for single moms rather than our regular Christmas party
- Our Deacons and Care Department sent out 100 flower arrangements to our Senior Saints in lieu of a typical brunch and carol sing-a-long
- We’re adding a Saturday night service at 7:00 p.m. this week to accommodate all those who want to attend Behold the Lamb of God and hear the Christmas story.
- We’ll be outdoors for a Live Nativity with animals (!!) next Monday through Wednesday
- And our first ever Candlelight Drive-in Worship service on Christmas Eve
I hope that any or all of these events can be part of God’s plan for making the close of 2020 both memory inducing and gratitude producing for a long time to come.
Grace and Peace to you,