What Difference a Day Makes is a good song, I would magnify it though to, “What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time my wife and I were toasting one another cheerfully as 2020 drew to a close and many people around us were acting as if the world were ending. Either because Trump lost or because the Rona was on the prowl. It seemed as though everyone and their mother hated 2020 and could not wait for 2021 to do… something good. And I suppose they got their good year because 2020 had been mine. At first glance 2021 was a misery for me. And yet, upon closer inspection it was merely a hard year because God, in his sovereignty, gave us the gift of struggle.
In preparing this article I went back to last years summation, and at the risk of appearing conceited I will quote myself:
“What then should be done? to close I will submit a couple of practical steps. As 2020 comes to a close stop making lists of wrongs. Don’t chronicle your year with markers being placed by every setback, and disappointment. Just stop. Do not commiserate and grouse with friends who feed dissatisfaction. Just stop. Instead devote your thinking and prayers to thanksgiving. The list may start short, but start it. As you meditate on the goodness of God the list will grow. Perhaps even consider where you have received a blessing from God and slighted Him by labeling it as a privilege. You had no control, it was just given to you. And given for a reason, that reason was not for you despise it. Steward well the gift, and give thanks to the giver.”
I do not intend to list everything from the past year but I will give a few of the larger examples.
Early in the year I doubled over in pain from a hernia. This was a problem as my wife and I are unable to afford health insurance, for reasons to ridiculous to go over here. In summary because of governmental ineptness we had to pay for a surgery out of our own pocket. And it is not as if we have that kind of money just lying around. But what it turns out we do have are excellent friends. I don’t know if I was supposed to be kept in the dark about all this, and I can’t seem to get a straight answer one way or the other out of my wife about who all was involved. But they pulled together the finances to pay the exact amount. I can only express gratitude to the ones I do know or have been given a hint about contributed something, I know not how much, Aaron, Lauren, Hudson, Garret, Jana and Annie.
So yes there was pain, and stress, but the end result was the realization that I have far better friends then I knew. Also the avoidance of financial ruin, and bad health was a kindness of God as well.
The second thing was God doing his usual every few years lesson on trusting Him. This was his most entertaining, in retrospect, yet. The catalytic converter on my car was stolen, two nights later, my license plate was also stolen, then I was nearly arrested for running crystal meth in Huntsville Alabama. It has not been determined if the two thefts are connected, however, it turns out that catalytic converters are used in the making of very high grade crystal meth. Go figure. Either way while trying to get my car repaired, then trying to replace it after instance had totaled it out (because apparently the converter was worth more than the rest of the car). I was contacted by the Huntsville police to please come pick my car up from their impound lot. This was odd because I had just cleaned out my car here in Memphis for it to be smushed into a small cube. Which also made it somewhat impossible for me to travel long distances. So I handled it over the phone. After a lot of, respectful, arguing with the police I was finally put on with a “chief inspector” who figured out that a Yaris packed to the gills with crystal meth had crashed and rolled across three lawns, before it was abandoned. The officer on the scene found a stack of license plates in the front seat and mine was on top, for his report he used my plate for the crashed car and copied and pasted my cars VIN number onto the report because that was easier then looking at the Yaris’ VIN. After I sorted that out a lawyer friend who has worked in Huntsville told me it was very smart that I refused to go because apparently the PD in Huntsville is lazy and corrupt and are constantly doing things like that and would have simply arrested and charged me with everything had I shown up.
So again, yes there was pain, and stress, but the end result was a more reliable car, a story to tell, and a good reason to avoid the state of Alabama.
The old preachers used a phrase, “preaching through the storm.” And even now this is how I feel. Currently my wife is quarantined in our guest room with the Rona. She is miserable and I miss her. It is neither the way we wanted to end our vacation time nor our year.
There have been other difficulties this year, but none of them have been insurmountable. God has gotten us through them, and has grown us. Would I have liked an easier year? Obviously. But another restful, frankly lazy, year would have done little to stoke the fires of our faith. Lewis talks of peaks and troughs 2020 was a peak year, 2021 was a trough. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but it was a necessary blessing, or as Sheldon Vanauken might say, a series of little severe mercies.