Happy New Year’s! Well, we made it. 2020 is on it’s way into memory and we are all opening our arms wide to welcome 2021. It’s the same kind of feeling each year, but this year, for obvious reasons, those feelings of shaking the dust of the previous year from our feet are stronger than usual. I wrote earlier this fall about being careful not to totally write off 2020, or as Ben’s grandpa would say, put it in the book of the dead. And while yes, I too am excited to embark on a new year, I keep being reminded that shaking my fist at 2020 isn’t the right choice.
There is a music artist that I like who is a Franciscan monk named Brother Isaiah. He has mostly acoustic stuff and is often fairly repetitive which makes the lyrics easy to learn and excellent to pray with. His latest album, Poco a Poco, has been cued up in my phone often lately, especially one song in particular.
This song is so good, because it is so much of 2020. 2020 has been a struggle! It has been hard, horrific, frustrating, heart wrenching, and isolating. As the song says, it has often felt like we are reeds broken in the wind, how many more hits can we take? Without my faith, I’m not sure how I could answer this question.
This is one of the beautiful mysteries of our faith. Suffering always bears fruit – “every good thing is born of a struggle.” The song acknowledges that suffering happens, and that it’s hard to struggle through. But we all know that the best things in life are the ones that we have to work for, work through and continue to grapple with. None of us is a finished masterpiece, we are works in progress. The song pulls this image to the fore:
Something being born in you so beautiful and so true
Like a statue of David chiseled-away and never fading
We are being honed, refined. Brother Isaiah calls life a crucible, a place of extreme heat which can transform metal. This reminds me of the refiners fire the prophet Zechariah talks about when speaking of the coming of the Lord. Zechariah 13:9 says: “I will bring the one third through the fire; I will refine them as one refines silver, and I will test them as one tests gold. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”
2020 has definitely been a refining year. And things aren’t going to magically change now that the clocks and calendars have turned over to January 1, 2021. The same struggles are being carried forward, but not without hope. Listen to how the singer chooses to respond to the new knowledge about struggle:
Yes I’m a struggler, but I’m not gonna give up no
You give me heart when I want to give up
He affirms that yes, he is a struggler. But he’s a struggler that’s going to keep on going because what’s being created is worth the effort. My friends, let’s walk forward into 2021 seeing where we are struggling, and instead of trying to run away from it, let’s embrace it. Let’s discover what beauty is waiting to be found within the crucible of our struggle. God does not abandon us in our struggle, but walks right alongside us. Whatever your struggle, wherever you are, my new year’s wish for you is that 2021 will bring forth fruit in your life that strengthens you to continue becoming the person He desires you to be.
Happy New Year!