Happy New Year (Goodbye 2020)
Before I go any further, I want to say, "Happy New Year!" to all of our friends and family, both near and far. For many of us, 2020 has been one of the hardest years we have ever lived through. If you had told me a year ago that I would have spent an entire year in a whirlwind of confusion and anxiety, coupled with a complete identity crisis meltdown, I would have called you a false prophet. But as I'm sure many of you have experienced for yourselves, this year has tested me mentally unlike any other.
And now we bring in the New Year...alone. Don't get me wrong, there is so much to be thankful for. We had an amazing Christmas here in Adamsville with my uncle, and then with my mom's side of the family in Savannah. I have been sick off and on for almost a month, but getting to see my daughter truly enjoy the gifts and celebration this year gave me an experience I've never had--Christmas through the eyes of a parent. Now, I understand what Christmas is really all about as an adult. It's not getting what we want; it's seeing the joy and wonder in the eyes of our children. That was an amazing feeling.
At the same time, though, I want to be brutally honest about how much pain the global response to Covid-19 has caused many of us this year, and is causing many of us even now as we step into 2021. There are many who, like us, will spend New Year's Eve alone this year. There are many who even had to spend Christmas alone.
In fact, if 2020 has a single theme that stands above the rest, it's not Covid-19 or politics or economics. It's loneliness. What 2020 has stolen from us more than anything else, is that feeling of being a part of a society, a tribe, a family. I understand, for some of you, you don't care. You like being alone and this year was nothing more than a giddy excuse for you to shut your blinds and hibernate for a year. But there are also freaks like me who require 10 interactions a day just to feel alive. And there are others who are elderly or have medical conditions that make them legitimately afraid to be around anyone. Then there are the shut-ins, who already tend to live in isolation, and who have missed the few chances they normally have during the year to connect with their kids and grandkids. I think of my Alzheimeric father, who was put in a care facility in June, and who hasn't been able to have an actual in-person guest since. I can tell you with certainty, he has suffered in ways none of us can even begin to understand. For all of these people, this suffering may not be physical, but sometimes a broken heart can hurt worse than a broken body.
Loneliness is the first imperfect condition mentioned in Scripture. Before a sin had ever been committed, there was still one thing that haunted the first man-- his need for another (Genesis 2:18). King Solomon also had an interesting observation about loneliness:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
There is a reason God saves us into a church body (Ephesians 2), tells us that he who finds a wife finds "what is good and receives favor from the LORD" (Proverbs 18:22), says "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). There is a reason God says that "Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3). All of these truths carry with them an obvious assumption that we were not made to live in isolation.
So, if you are like me and are just ready for this season to be over, I want to try to put some courage into your heart. I am not going to tell you to "be thankful" for all the things you have, or give you some empty promise that you will start living your best life at the beginning of 2021. I'm just going to tell you what I have kept telling myself over and over again: don't lose yourself. Isolation can make us crazy. It can make our demons come out. Maybe you are just trying to make it one day at a time. You can do it. This will not last forever. Think of the humans who have endured imprisonment and solitary confinement and have come out on the other side. It is possible. And when all else fails, remember that our savior knew what loneliness felt like. When he was praying in the garden, sweating blood, his own friends couldn't stay awake for him. And when he was hanging on the cross, bleeding out for your sins and mine, he experienced a loneliness that could not be described in words, as everyone, including his closest companions, had denied him in his darkest hour.
And now, "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:18) There are a lot of temptations that come with loneliness-- despair, self-harm, drastic measures to numb the pain. Jesus knew them all, yet he conquered and came out victorious on the other side, and now he can help us in a way that only someone who has experienced true loneliness can.
Find what stimulates your mind, find what makes you happy (as long as it's not harmful), but most importantly, cling to your savior, who understands. If you are struggling, we may not be "together" but I am praying for you and I am in this battle with you. Keep fighting. Who knows, 2021 might just be our year.