Twenty Twenty

Here we are, in the month dedicated to giving thanks, in a year determined to shake the whole world. How do we straddle both?

It’s an honest question.

Would you ponder it with me?

Then let’s mount the back of the Eagle whose bird eye perspective is not of this world. Wrap your arms around His neck, feel the warmth of His strong presence under you, and let’s begin the ascent. I’m right next to you, looking over His other shoulder.

“You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” – Exodus 19:4

As we soar above our daily lives, the hustle and bustle below quickly becomes smaller and more distant, until gravity loosens its grip on us, and time becomes a continent we glide over effortlessly.

Can you feel the fresher air already? Can you feel your soul breathing freer as we drift on the outer wind bands of eternity?

He pauses over New Year’s Eve, 2019. Remember where you were? He descends close enough that we can hear our own declarations for 2020, both the visions we shared with our loved ones and the private prayers we whispered as we closed our eyes at the dawn of this year.

I watch my own tired face with residue of the night’s makeup still smeared around my eyes, drowsily confessing that in the year that just slipped away, I hurried too much and listened too little…. What were your hopes, regrets, prayers that night? Did you have a resolution?

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,

That hovers over its young,

He spread His wings and caught them,

He carried them on His pinions.

– Deuteronomy 32:11

One small, internal move of His, as I recognize a week later the books that became His initial answer to my dazed prayer: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer and Get Your Life Back by John Eldridge. Books and writing — these two in tandem has always been how He carried me through shifting seasons confusing reasons; it’s how He taught me to hear His voice.

As we slowly sail the sky over January and February, what did He carry you through? From this vantage point, how do you see His goodness tending to your soul these months? If tears rise up and close your throat, let them loose. If hurts and questions and unresolved issues begin to bang against your rib cage, let them out. It’s time. Remember where you are, right here in His safe presence.

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,

Who rides the heavens to help you,

And in His excellency on the clouds.

The eternal God is your refuge,

And underneath are the everlasting arms”

– Deuteronomy 33:26-27a

Approaching March, we rise again to higher altitude. We see the dark virus roll like a fog over the whole world, driving people home like the ancient plagues in Egypt. Fear and financial ruin accompany this pestilence, and conflicting news competes with its feverish paralysis for our breath.

But this elevation shows us something wonderful budding through the hazy nightmare. Oceans teeming again with healthy life, vegetation fragrantly vibrant as pollution is halted, and sounds of silence and nature singing without the bullying noise of civilization.

Families pressing in to overcome the initial shock of our new reality are forced to spend time together, discovering restorative rhythms of being with and belonging to each other they barely knew they had missed. A sacred Sabbath settles over the whole groaning earth, ironically inducing deeper breaths for the many who remain healthy, even as the vicious virus strangles its victims.

Good and evil grabble for our very life. Like street vendors, eternal and temporary risks and rewards cry out for our attention, but there is a hush in the heart that belongs to us. He who gave us the weight of freedom to choose now gives us a moment to meditate on what matters most.

This is not paradise. It’s just a pregnant pause.

Let’s both inhale slowly and exhale deeply while we hover over the stillness of the quarantine. Just drink in the sight of LA without pollution and dolphins playing closer to shore, unafraid and undisturbed, one more time. Without minimizing the bitter losses, let’s savor even deeper the goodness of God as He reveals it to us.

Can you feel the sorrow in His chest, though?

Advancing towards the months where blood spilt in the street and once again, and human breath was suffocated by evil, we feel the rising uproar before we hear it. Agonies deeper than words swelling in black and blue communities clash in a desperate clamoring to be heard, to be understood, to be justified.

Even from here, high above the fray, we hear the blood calling out.

“And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” – Genesis 4:10-11

Can anything good come from this, we both ask, and again, there’s the sense of choice:We can train our eyes on all the unresolved evil, or we can see the goodness of God even here. Please, we need hope to illuminate our souls, so He opens our eyes to new conversations born from these deaths. We see stones of accusation dropped and the hands that clutched them now bringing meals to former enemies.

Remember where you saw reconciliation?

Moving towards the second half of the year, everything speeds up. The word reopens and grasps for what was before. What else is it supposed to do? We hear the music of the merry-go-round spin into dissonance as faster and faster the globe spirals into the pace of the curse, drinking the toxic cocktail of pestilence, politics, and pessimism.

Even up here, our hearts are pounding, and our minds whirling as the inevitable outcome is impossible to ignore.

Do you regret coming with me here?

Do you think I forgot that the invitation centered on giving thanks?

I don’t blame you; this is hard! And I’m not God; that’s why we together take this ride on His unshakable Word, so we can glance beyond the horizon of time and anchor our hearts in certain goodness on the other side.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” – 2 Peter 3:10, 13

With this bird’s-eye view of the year, it’s easier for me to focus less on the painful stitches that defined certain days, weeks, and months. They’re still there, of course, but I can see them within the tapestry of sanctification — of becoming more like our Savior. In my own life, that means:

This was the year He shattered my illusion of control and replaced it with deeper rest.

This was the year He opened my eyes to some blindspots that brought me much-needed humility.

This was the year that taught me not to take tomorrow for granted, so I am more present today.

Meanwhile, I’m so grateful for the colorful, caring people I call mine, each individual leaning into the pursuit of righteous goodness in their own way. Wells in the desert, homes for the orphans, food for the hungry, peace offered to prisoners — these are some of the tangible expressions of our gratitude to our Savior who despises any and all shame to come find the broken in the rubble of this world, so He can lift us out of it in time.

Swept up in the redemption chorus that breaks earth’s chains with heaven’s Hallelujah, we hear His melodies clearer as the Day draws closer. And until that day arrives, Jesus is still near to us today. Any time you’d like another ride above the murky mire here, just wait for Him in His Word, and He will come. He will find you right where you are, because

“…those who wait on the LORD

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.”

– Isaiah 40:31

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