With Halloween just two weeks away, I am beginning to get the urge to shout “BOO” to 2020 in hopes it will go away. This year feels like a daily reliving of Groundhogs Day and Halloween as we wear a mask EVERY day. Come to think of it, 2020 feels like one of those haunted house attractions at Halloween. As you walk down a fog-filled hallway, you experience an overwhelming sense of creepiness as the eerie music reminds you that the sole purpose of this event is to provoke terror-filled screams. The scare tactics are so effective that your heart races in anticipation of what horror awaits you around the next corner.
And to think you bought a ticket for that experience. We need a different ticket to survive the thrills and chills of 2020.
We live in uncharted and uncertain times. The word uncertain has never been more pregnant with meaning. In a year that has seen a pandemic, race riots, an invasion of Asian giant “murder” hornets, raging West Coast wildfires, and a Saharan sand plume come across the Atlantic, am I alone in thinking this year resembles one of those haunted houses at Halloween? Am I the only one asking, “What else lurks around the corner?”
Everyone appears to possess a combustible mix of fear, anxiety, and confusion about what to do or how to act. Those feelings are normal for anyone in a state of disorientation and grief. We have suffered a loss and now find ourselves in a fog, not knowing which way to turn, which direction to go. We have lost what we knew as normal, while a new normal has yet to settle in. Yes, that sounds like 2020 to me.
When I lost my wife to cancer in 2011, I found myself consumed by a grief I had never known before. I compared it to walking in a fog, through a valley of tears. My normal had disappeared forever.
It occurs to me that we are in the midst of a global grief process, unable to process the cascade of traumatic events, uncertain as to what will happen next, and confused as to what to do. It’s as if 2020 is an unwelcome gift (of grief) wrapped in a corrosive blanket of fear.
How now shall we live?
During my grieving in 2011, I discovered hidden lifelines within my heart – memories of the past came to my rescue. Seeds of faith planted over a lifetime sprouted their flowers of encouragement. They reminded me, that yes, I might live in a world filled with unknowns, but I do not have to live in fear or confusion. That maxim was true in 2011. And now, with the growing plethora of alarming events, it is again true in 2020.
I recalled Isaiah 41:13, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”
I recalled Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I loved the image of a lamp at my feet, guiding each of my steps — not a searchlight showing the next mile, but a lamp helping me take one step at a time. Then, as now, walking by faith means we are a “one-step-at-a-time” people.
I recalled the story of Peter walking on water in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 14. When he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. Note to self, when sinking, turn your eyes upon Jesus.
I also recalled a story told by Nazi Concentration Camp survivor, Corrie ten Boom, in her book, The Hiding Place. This Dutch Christian woman shared the time when, as a young child, she cried at witnessing another child’s death. Her father used that moment to explain the concept of grace.
Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. "Corrie," he began gently, "when you and I go to Amsterdam - when do I give you your ticket?"
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
"Why, just before we get on the train."
"Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need — just in time.”
Does this story have any relevance to a year like 2020 that causes unending sleepless nights, fearful hearts to tremble, and worried minds to contemplate worst-case scenarios?
What can we learn from Mr. ten Boom’s counsel to his tearful daughter? We do not have to live in fear for what lurks around the corner. Because…
- Grace is a gift.
- Grace is not something that can be saved up and stored.
- Grace is always available. There is an inexhaustible supply!
- Grace is a “ticket” given precisely when most needed.
Sounds like 2020 is a time to focus on the “lamp at my feet” and take life one step (of faith) at a time while boldly approaching the throne of grace and asking our heavenly Father for a new ticket, a ticket of grace.
We need it now more than ever.