As I sat down in a local coffee shop and enjoyed the quite…a quiet that would soon be upended by the scraping of ice, the loading of furniture, and the negotiation between freezing weather and thick winter gloves…I happened to look down at my calendar and notice something odd. Between all of the Christmas celebrations, visits with family, and prepping for the big move to a new city, it had never hit me until that very moment that it was no longer 2017.
There was so much packed into that year that to try and summarize it would have been very difficult. I think I would have a better chance of getting my two year old to understand the plot to Ocean’s Eleven than giving such an interesting and intense year a thorough run through.
However, I did recall many interesting highlights that came to mind. I could vividly recall seeing trusted people fall to sin, secrets, and self-serving behaviors. However, not surprisingly, I also saw those once thought to be untrustworthy step into redemption with grace and humility.
My heart grew full from watching those who were previously marginalized in our society, recognized for their contributions and gather advocates and support from their communities. I saw ordinary everyday people united as they stood against hatred and intolerance, which served as a beacon of hope in the face of a not so distant past.
Perhaps the most extraordinary things I saw in that year came from working with, watching, or hearing the stories of ordinary people who committed super human acts of love and compassion. From men and women putting their lives on the line to take in and serve hundreds of refugees, to Pastor Brian Robertson in Houston who waded through water, checking every car, truck, and large piece of debris to save lives in his community during Tropical Storm Harvey.
I looked back at the year and all of its challenges, all of its anger inducing moments, and all of its seemingly crippling events. By any media outlet’s account you and I should be downtrodden and depressed from all that we took in. We should be living in fear of what will come in 2018.
But I am not.
I think back to what we as a group of people did in the face of crisis and my heart is filled with hope. The idea that the world is lost due to the sin of man does not move my faith. Looking at how we respond to crisis and tragedy has had a muse-like effect on my lenses.
When the storms of the Gulf Coast rained down terror upon people I saw thousands spring into action. Highways filled with hundreds of pickup trucks headed towards the storm with supplies in order to serve and save their fellow men and women.
I witnessed women gathering together to march for equality and human rights. They united regardless of political party, religious beliefs, or socioeconomic status.
I watched communities rallying around the Muslim population in our country, after countless attacks. Christian, Hindu, and atheist all gathered to console, protect, and empower the Muslim community to live without fear.
I witnessed a shift in conversations when it came to our most difficult topics. Conversations about beliefs, racism, and sexism evolved from defensiveness and offense to conversations of interest and a desire to learn more about those who are different than ourselves.
I saw the physical manifestation of hope in God’s children. We did not get rid of sin. We did not get rid of hatred. We did not solve every problem. What we were able to accomplish in 2017 was prove that we have the potential do better. That a more just and verdant world is not just a dream.
We proved that when lives are at stake, we respond. When violence, earthquakes, fires, mudslides, and storms invade our lives we step up for one another. We don’t see rich or poor, gay or straight, White or Black, Christian or Muslim, IU or Purdue (ok maybe IU vs. Purdue thing is just me) when tragedy strikes. When we see our brothers and sisters in need, we see the core of humanity…which is love...and we step up.
I pray that this year we are able to shed more labels instead of finding even more ways to divide ourselves. I pray that we find our way to the core of our humanity. I pray that it does not take outrageous statements from elected officials or natural disasters for us to take action where we see a need.
I pray that we take the small steps in our own personal lives to elevate our way of thinking. To listen more than we speak. To have a positive impact on those around us. To remember the undeserved grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed you with the very next breath you take.
I pray that your next step is one that allows you to step up and step in.