Better Than I Deserve
It happens every year. As winter settles in and the last few days of December roll along, people rush to their soapboxes to publicly denounce the ending year and celebrate the dawning of a new one. It's as if the turning of the calendar is the result of an election that the incumbent inevitably loses, much to the delight of the electorate. I think the future just has better PR than the past: there's something hopeful about the unknown - the yet-to-occur - that isn't bogged down by the baggage of reality. The past (particularly the recent past) simply doesn't have this advantage: it isn't ambiguous, and it can't be changed. It is definite. It is final. And in a fallen world, it is often abrasive. This is why many a glass is raised at the end of every year to celebrate the changing of the guard. Doing so isn't novel. It's normal.
But man - 2020 just felt different.
What more can be said about this year? We'll all be glad to see it go. We've experienced division in myriad ways in 2020, be it the physical distancing that we've had to practice because of a global pandemic or the political distancing we've had to endure because of a bizarre election, but on the other hand, we've all been unified in at least one way: our disdain for the year itself is ubiquitous and fierce.
This shared disdain stems from our comparisons of 2020 to any of the other years of our lives that preceded it - years that afforded us fewer unpleasant surprises. I know that I've grown accustomed to having a ceiling under which hardship generally remains - a threshold that I subconsciously, albeit lazily, thought impermeable. As a result, what I've become accustomed to has transformed into what I've felt entitled to. If I'm honest, my personal complaints about the difficulties of 2020 have come from a heart that feels entitled to an easier life. In a culture dominated by feel-good, self-first phrases like "I don't deserve this!", I find myself practically believing that I really don't deserve this.
Well, in a roundabout way, I suppose I'm right. It's worth asking: what do I deserve?
"For the wages of sin is death..." ~ Romans 6:23a
I don't deserve a year like 2020. I don't deserve to celebrate its few-and-far-between highs, and I don't deserve to endure its frequent-and-alarmingly-sequential lows. I don't deserve to laugh or cry with my family and friends. I don't deserve to see one year morph into the next. To deserve these things is to earn them, and all I've ever earned for myself, with all the efforts of all the days of my life, is death.
This year, as the glass is raised and the ball is dropped, I'll be thinking not of what I've earned, but of what has been given to me. God has mercifully gifted me with the experience of living through 2020. How can I complain? It's so, so, so much better than I deserve.
"...but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 6:23b