My 2020: Embracing Tension, Receiving Clarity

What a year it’s been.

Obviously, 2020 has been a year that many of us will remember. With countless reminders of how “unprecedented” or “momentous” it has been, it’s safe to assume that our memories will be selective. We don’t have capacity to remember it all, and not all of us will remember the same events. Not all of us will have been impacted by the same things. Not all of us will feel the same emotions at the end of this year. And that’s okay.

For me, this year has been a year of embracing tension. I’ve been learning to live in the both-and realities of life. Grappling with the ways that life is not black and white, and acknowledging that things don’t always fit neatly into our categories and dichotomies.

Tensions may make life complicated, but they are still true.

This year has brought both deep levels of grief and immense gratitude. We grieved for the countless lives lost to covid, story after story of Black people being killed by police or vigilante violence, the unfathomable numbers of people experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic, the political divisions and strife in our country, and our earth crying out for healing. But we were also more aware of our blessings — to be alive each day with breath in our lungs, to see mass movements for social change unfold before us, to gain a deeper appreciation for the relationships in our lives, to know a new administration is coming, to see that people were forced to pay attention to the ways our society is failing the poor and marginalized.

This year has brought both the sting of separation and new forms of togetherness. Many of us felt the fatigue of Zoom, the strain of screens all day, the longing for hugs and bbqs and singing and parties and vacations. But we also felt deep gratitude for togetherness, in whatever form it came, and a release of creativity for how to care for one another. From bingo night birthday parties on Zoom, playing kahoots with staff teammates, text messaging friends late at night, or watching shows together with friends via Zoom, we still made connections. It was a year with less hangouts and face-to-face time, but more drive-by hellos, gifts dropped off on porches, letters in the mail, and thoughtful gifts sent at the right time, without even asking for them.

This year has brought both uncertainty about the future and also a predictability about our days. We were unable to make plans and experienced a constant shifting of the plans that had been made, risk of asymptomatic carriers in your midst, and anxieties about what potential catastrophe might occur in society next. Yet we also experienced a general monotony and predictability to what each day would bring- the unrelenting cycle of sleeping and waking and working and feeding oneself (and potential offspring) and just trying to survive day by day.

This year has both seen our worlds get smaller and be stretched beyond the norm. While many of us rarely went outside the home and spent the vast majority of my time in small spaces with our pods, we also experienced an expanding of our networks, as so many of us connected with people across distance and space in the digital world.

For me personally, this year has also brought great clarity, even in the midst of the fog of 2020. While I often felt like I was barely scraping by day by day, and didn’t know what I was doing in the midst of the constant changes to my job, to our church, and to my family rhythms, I’ve also experienced a supernatural clarity about my vocation. I felt clarified in my call to be a pastor, my gifts as a writer, my commitment to change on a local level, and my desire to create meaningful liturgical spaces alongside my husband and other creatives, trying to tell a better narrative.

These are the tensions of 2020- a year that’s been filled with countless losses and gains. It’s been both momentous and also monotonous, gone by quickly and also slowly, brought both great uncertainty and deeper clarity for many of us. And at the end of it all, I’m both ready for 2020 be over, and also not wanting to miss out on the lessons that it held.

I don’t honestly know what 2021 will bring. I am not naive and know that many of the social evils and injustices that exacerbated many of the catastrophes of 2020 are not going away. But I do hope that with the clarity that this year brought, all that has been exposed, and all that we were unable to escape (especially ourselves), we can all enter into this new year with a little bit more grace to embrace the tensions of our world and choose a path marked by curiosity, mystery, and spaciousness.

May we be freed from the illusion that we can control our own lives.

Here are a few images that capture our year:

Keeping kids busy at home, making lunches for unhoused neighbors
Easter 2020, Failed bread attempts, cards made for church members with kids
Remembering Stacey Park, Seeking justice for Breonna Taylor
Celebrating my commissioning, enjoying fruits from our trees
Celebrating covid birthdays
Orange skies, , Hanging out during a pandemic
Communion at home, Michael gets commissioned
Still seeking justice for Steven Taylor
The Lion and the Lamb, Volunteering at San Leandro Food Pantry
Advent Adventure boxes, Treasure hunting in the neighborhood with kiddos
Covid Christmas 2020

Happy New Year to you all! May 2021 bring new life, more healing, and increased togetherness for all of us, allowing us to put into practice the lessons learned from this challenging year.

Co-Pastor @bethelcommunitysl | Director of Advocacy @fphayward | pastor, activist, writer | married to @eubanksme | co-author of @lentenlament | she/her

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