Opinion: One word for 2020

by Peter Heck · Dec 31st, 2020 8:06 am
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Last Updated Jan 13th, 2021 at 7:02 pm

As the epithets for the year 2020 are being written in earnest, I've noticed a lot of commentators attempting to find one word to best describe the last 365 days. Some of them I can't (and wouldn't) repeat. But to be fair, it's not an easy task.

For me personally? It's been an amazing year. The unexpected lockdown last spring brought my family closer than ever.

  • I've been able to engage in a far more intentional way in the spiritual discipleship of my own children than I would have under "normal" circumstances;
  • My wife and I have had fuller and deeper conversations, spending more quality time together than we had the previous 13 years of marriage;
  • We've been spared the grief of losing any close family members to COVID-19 or to any other cause;
  • We've avoided debt;
  • We've done more nightly "MadLibs," evening board games, and family MarioKart tournaments than I'd have ever guessed at this time last year.

So needless to say, my "one word to describe 2020" would be far different than someone like Temple professor and public activist Marc Lamont Hill:

And for every person who would identify with my experiences in 2020, there is another who would identify with Hill's, and there would be millions of others somewhere in between. So it's a tall order to pick one word for all humanity. But if I had to try, I'd go with "revelation."

No, not in the "end of days" kind of revelation, though there have been plenty of prophecy experts convinced that pandemics, impeachments, helicopter crashes, and murder hornets are somewhere to be found in John's vision on Isle of Patmos.

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No, I mean revelation in the, "2020 was an incredibly revealing year for those paying attention" kind of way.

Think about it and tell me I'm wrong.

On a personal level, has there ever been a year that has revealed to us individually where our confidence and hope is truly placed?

  • If your hope has been placed in some false feeling of health invincibility, it was undoubtedly shaken in a year of shelter-in-place pandemic panic.
  • If your hope has been placed in a youthful sense of immortality, it was surely undermined with the gut-wrenching news of that California helicopter crash that took Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and so many other young, gifted lives so suddenly.
  • If your hope has been placed in your checking or savings account, it was unquestionably tested by a year of global economic arrest, cratering stocks, skyrocketing unemployment, and uncertain investment futures.
  • If your hope has been placed in political power and the elected officials who wield it, that has definitely been exposed as unreliable and tenuous in a year as contentious and rancorous as this.
  • If your hope has been placed in family and the comforts and security of home, that has surely been rattled by lockdowns, isolation, and social distancing.
  • If your hope has been in routine and your personal view of normalcy, that has been rocked to its core in a year of race riots, "essential" businesses, and mask mandates.

If nothing else, we can say with certainty that this was a year where our idols were torched, our weaknesses exposed, our limitations and insecurities revealed. What a gift.

We reside in a fallen world, but the blessings of liberty and prosperity that surround us too often numb our consciences to how fragile we are, how unpredictable life is, and how everything – literally everything – can change in a moment. Except one thing.

God's providence, His dominion, His unfathomable love, His unmerited grace is and remains the same, always; the only constant in a world of pandemics, pain, politics, and power plays.

So, it makes me think – if 2020 was the year God revealed how feeble and futile all of humanity's idols are, perhaps 2021 should be the year when Christ's church presents in boldness how He is the only thing that isn't, yesterday, today, and for all eternity.


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