Hey there, 2021. I love you. I just wanted you to know.
I ended 2020 with a multitude of letters to the year that had so much stacked against her. And I said then that, if I were to write a letter to you, 2021, it would let you know that I already anticipated you would be blamed for a laundry list of things. I wrote that, if I had my druthers, I would have entered your days anonymously so I could simply be there to catch your tears when troubles began to mount.
You breathed your first weary breath, and I ached for you.
Within moments of your arrival, I wrote these words to you:
It’s been nary a week, and I’m already writing to you with apologies for all the promises broken, all the curses made, all the disappointing glares you are receiving.
Like your sister 2020, we sat you at the table and made the list of how things would be different, how we would be different. We worried about making resolutions, but we quietly made promises. We didn’t want to make public proclamations, but we still wrote out all the silent expectations. We counted on you to fix things, to change those we see as “other,” to get rid of the bad guys and set the world right.
And instead, we’ve watched it burn before our eyes. We pointed fingers and cast blame, we dug our heels in and looked in disgust at anyone who offered a different perspective. We drew enemy lines. And in doing so, we have labeled ourselves enemies too. The greatest conspiracy we’ve believed is that we are not co-conspirators in all that is happening around us.
And we cursed you, 2021, as if you held any power at all. But you are like that sister of yours, quietly reminding us that you are created by God to offer us space, but the power to fill that space rightly is ours to hold.
You reminded me then that we will never be truly anonymous. Our presence will always be felt, no matter how we choose to step. And you and those around us will bear both the kisses and scars of our attitudes, our words, our actions.
You gathered me in close, 2021. And you taught me about care and compassion, faith and fidelity, and what it means to truly love beyond boundaries. You broke my heart in fresh ways. Perhaps it was needed.
All I know now is that I can’t pray this prayer without tears falling and hands raised:
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Tender 2021, we celebrated life together, and we lamented loss after loss. You gave me permission to ask a million questions, to wonder what we have learned—if anything— from this ongoing season my friend Heather has named “the great pause.” We journeyed together tenderly, more slowly than perhaps I’ve ever walked before as you shared stories about this temporary yet eternal life—and how we are formed to fit each other with grace and great mercy.
“Now you are the body of Christ. And individually members of it…”
You gathered me in, 2021. And I gathered all that you had to share. I learned about gathering as assembling and being knit together and collecting beauty, gathering as perspective and gathering as harvest, gathering as drawing near and gathering as placing rightly our love and life. We wrote a book (or at least a book’s worth of thoughts), I suppose, on what it means to gather. It’s left to be seen if the words will matter to anyone beyond a few close friends and family members. But we’ve learned about that too, haven’t we? That we humans aren’t designed for mass consumption. We are created for community.
We lose ourselves when we lose each other.
And so, we baked. We traveled a bit. We played in puddles. We welcomed. We grieved. We flew kites. We enjoyed long talks. And along the way, you taught me that my life doesn’t need to be dressed to be full. It doesn’t need trappings to be true. God’s increase in me will be evident through me as I embrace His design of me.
You broke my heart, 2021, and He has stretched it. For that I am thankful.
You are the first year I’ve not wanted to rush through on my way to the next. So, I pray 2022 holds your hand the way you held 2020 so tenderly. I pray for her already, knowing she will also be bruised and beaten by human demands and disappointments. She and I will consider what it means to cultivate life, love, community, compassion, hope, sorrow, beauty, the moments, the days, the seasons, the land under our feet, the small but infinite space we have been given. I have a feeling I will come to love her too, no matter what our journey might bring. God is with us in it, and there is comfort in His presence.
A year ago, I questioned your arrival. But one thing I know for sure is this: hope and love can’t be devoid of honest, skinned-knee grit, and encouragement is often born from questioning.
Thank you for embracing every question, 2021. Thank you for always pointing to what is true and right for every answer. And thank you for all the space in-between. You have gathered me. I have gathered you.
And I love you, 2021. I just wanted you to know.