Just past its midpoint, year 2020 has assured us already of its destructive and lasting impact. It came without an appointment and stands out unlike any other year most of us have known.
What was expected to be a rough spring continues producing trauma into the summer. And projections for the fall and beyond are not good.
Those who survive this pandemic in the best of conditions will remember it as the lost year. It will be recalled for the disruption of life as usual, especially rites of passage such as weddings and graduations.
The absence of anticipated vacations, sports, family gatherings, church events and fun times with friends will long be recalled. Historians will use it as a reference point.
A lost year is the best of all possibilities – though we know pandemics don’t count the days.
More tragically, others will remember this as the year of losses – much greater losses than a canceled vacation, a missed graduation or the inability to dine out freely.
They are grieving, or will grieve, the deaths of family members and close friends – compounded by the inability to gather and remember in comforting ways.
Others are suffering the loss of income, insurance and the simple expected meeting of life’s most basic needs.
The continuing stress on health care workers takes its toll on those who face daily risks in a seemingly uphill battle against the virus that doesn’t go away. For them and others, it’s not merely a lost year but a year of losses.
Compounding this challenging time is the lack of unity and compassion in confronting a common enemy. Those most responsible for managing a national health crisis deny reality and seek scapegoats on which to project their blame.
Social media fills with crazy conspiracy theories and cheap political deflections that do nothing to move the nation toward healing and hope. And professing Christians are not only among those advancing harmful misinformation but often leading the pack.
We only need to see how the larger world has handled this global crisis to confirm our failures. We have proved ourselves to be less exceptional than long claimed.
It’s too soon to be only looking back, however. There is a challenging future to be shaped by our attitudes and actions.
Choices we make during these continuing uncertain times will determine the extent of our losses, as well as how this loss-filled year is both shaped and remembered.
Will we recall friends rallying to support one another or angrily arguing over the varied responses to the virus? Was this the time we finally slowed down enough to reevaluate some values and think about our mortality in ways that make our remaining time more faithful and fruitful?
Grave markers – with chiseled dates of births and deaths – are stark reminders that we are given a defined, though not fully revealed, slice of history that is uniquely ours. Those of us with the latter date still blank should consider how best to use those limited but undefined days, months and years.
Whether this unusual time becomes the Great Disruptor or Great Destroyer for us personally, it will surely have lasting effects. And a large and uncertain portion remains – as pandemics ignore our calendars.
We look ahead with both fear and hope: Fear that the disruption and devastation continues in painful and irreversible ways for a long time. And with hope that a vaccine will bring the virus under reasonable control, and life will stabilize to some manageable degree.
However, we need more hope than that. The first half of this year shows little promise that constructive lessons are being learned on a large scale. But the possibilities are still there.
We could learn to live less selfishly, and not allow fear to drive us away from gratitude, faith, compassion and hopefulness – those things we hold as markings of a well-lived life.
If the Bible and, specifically, the life of Jesus reveal anything, it is that we should be open to change. The word “conversion,” that gets tossed around in church circles, means precisely to move from a lesser condition into something better.
Conversion is preceded by confession, which requires reexamination. And reexamination requires something in short supply now: honesty.
Honest reexamination calls for looking into our own hearts to see where self-interest, self-preservation and self-service reside. Those “selfish” words are various spellings of the biblical concept of sin.
Surely, some Sunday School teacher once pointed out that at the center of “sin” is the letter “I.”
“Lasting effects” apply both to the virus’ long-term impact on health and economics – as well as to the ways we choose (or don’t choose) to live differently as a result of this unfolding lost year or year of losses.
The more defining question may not be whether this trying time was full of losses or just seemingly lost, but whether it was also wasted.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.