Whether this year made you focus and thrive or it kicked you in the teeth, there is something I think we’ve all learned about ourselves through hard times.
2020 was no different than any other year, except that it forced the entire globe to face one major threat together. I think there was something oddly comforting in that fact. But I also think that while we were all facing the bigger beasts, there were more personal beasts that creeped into our lives while we were distracted. Things like our financial situations, our relationships, and our motivation took some hits when we weren’t looking.
And while talking about the hard stuff makes us just about as comfortable as Clark Griswold at another family Christmas, there are three sizable monsters that 2020 forced us to face within ourselves:
If you’ve ever read Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’ll see what has been psychologically determined as the foundation of what makes humans function properly. At the bottom are things like food, water, and rest. Then it builds up with safety, relationships, feeling of accomplishment, and self-actualization, respectively. I think that when we’re faced with stressful situations (murder hornets and toilet paper shortage, we’re looking at you!), we develop coping mechanisms that shift our pyramid of needs out of whack.
So it’s inevitable that after a year like this, your priorities have changed somewhat.
When it comes to talking about priorities, the top of my list includes the story of the sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus and his disciples come upon a village and Martha opens their home to him. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet just listening and learning, while Martha was cooking and cleaning and preparing beds all on her own. Here’s what happened next:
She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”Luke 10:40-42
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
If I’m honest with you, I’m a Martha. I’m the doer — the one that gets every detail as right as possible and has back up plans for back up plans. (It’s a rough world in my brain, but I digress…) I would love to always be a Mary and just sit in the moment and soak up everything I possibly can. But I can’t be that because I know that’s not who God created me to be.
However… I cannot hold a Mary responsible for the list of a Martha. Their priorities are different, and neither of them are wrong.
So, when you tally up your wins and losses and your time well spent versus your time wasted from 2020, what will your priorities show about you? Will it show you giving into your fears? Will it show your drive to support those around you?
I have a friend who has a simple solution when it comes to his priorities. He lives by Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Living for God and using our priorities to glorify him will always be more rewarding than any plan we could ever have.
If the person across from me starts a sentence with, “Well, I know you’re busy, but…” I instantly feel a rock in my stomach. I loathe being told I’m busy because it immediately tells me that they feel forgotten by me. And who wants to be forgotten?! That’s horrible!!
Our availability actually connects our priorities with how we spend our time. When your calendar is blocked out back to back to back, where is there time built in for God to move?? For you to see what he wants you to see? Jesus’ mother Mary knew something about what it’s like when God interrupts your plans…
…God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”Luke 1:26-38
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “…You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
… “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Luke’s gospel is probably my favorite because Luke was a doctor. He’s analytical, logical, and textbook-minded (even though there weren’t really textbooks, but you get it). In other words, Luke’s faith was a product of true belief and resignation to the idea that he won’t be able to explain everything.
But back to Mary! She encountered an angel (we’re told in other biblical texts that they’re absolutely terrifying to behold), who announced that she would give birth to the Savior of the world through immaculate conception with the Creator of the universe. NO BIG DEAL — thanks, Gabe!
Mary’s response? “I am the Lord’s servant.” She didn’t complain or shirk responsibility. She made herself available.
If you laid 2020 out in front of you on paper, how many times did you open yourself to God’s agenda instead of your own? And even more convicting, would God look at you now and say, “I know you’re busy, but…”
There is nothing more important than being willing to build in time for God to intervene in your calendar.
This year brought unprecedented division, even to Christians within the church. I was surprised and shocked at some of the words our fellow believers chose to use. It was cringe-inducing for me, so I can only imagine the cringe non-believers made while watching us act like the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. (Let your imagination run wild with that one!)
Most of us recall the chapter on Love from 1 Corinthians 13, but there’s another passage of scripture that I’d hang right beside it. Psalm 15 is rather short, but David makes his point pretty clear. He asks God, “who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” And he answers himself with this:
The one whose walk is blameless,Psalm 15
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
I can’t say I haven’t done one of these things in 2020. And I know we can’t be perfect, but it is not for my sake that I want to be better. There’s a saying about taking as many people to heaven when we go. Please don’t take that in a physical sense, but in a spiritual one: your life should reflect the character of God with the intention of making him known to everyone around you.
Your character determines your priorities and your availability. My prayer is that you spend some intense moments with God in his presence asking him to reveal to you your blindspots and how to shed light on them for the next year.
When you drag those monsters into the light, they become known. And isn’t that half the battle?