We’ve reached 2021, finally and with hope. We groaned, suffered, despaired, and grieved our way through 2020 with all its trials, tribulations, wrong turns, a pandemic outbreak still with us, and increasing violence. For almost everyone, it was a disaster in one way or another.
My optometrist reminded me the other day that I need to make an appointment for my annual examination. Given my age and a couple of medical issues that could potentially damage my vision, I have to be careful with my eyes. I’m too fond of reading, needlework, and television, and I don’t want to go blind. Although I might see in a normal range with remedial lenses, I notice each year, I see a little less well. Even with new prescriptions, I doubt I will ever be able to see 20/20 again for longer than a few months at a time. Still, I am grateful for even slightly impaired vision most of the time, that is except when trying to read street signs further away than half a hundred feet.
This week I somehow began thinking of the contrast between the two numbers representing last year and perfect vision. If I were to gauge the past year (in my own opinion, of course), and if I were to put that gauge onto a Snellen opthalmological scale, I’d put it at about 20/200. I’d practically have to put my nose to the mirror to be able to see a clear reflection. Anything else would be a blur.
We seemed to have had a lot of prophets last year. Many people listened to those prophets that spoke from whatever point of view most closely reflected their own. For some, the year went pretty well, and by well, I mean their jobs were secure, their taxes neutral or decreased, their stock portfolios solid, and their health solid (with access to the best healthcare). Others were not quite so well off, but at least they were working, could put food on the table, and could access health services when they needed. Still more were at the margin. Their salary might provide the most basic needs but not medical care, vacations, repairs to houses, vehicles, and appliances.
Last year’s prophets did not prophesy a pandemic that would turn the world upside down. With the unexpected pandemic, life suddenly became restrictive and frightening. Not many disasters are predictable – pandemics, hurricanes, fires. Just when 20/20 vision is needed most, it fails us, or so it seems. Or, do we simply live in a world where our status quo is enough, but everyone else needs to look out for themselves?
I don’t think Jesus wouldn’t have cared for that approach. He talked about caring for one another, paying attention to God’s commandments, tending the earth and its creatures, and the like. We read various stories about his life and teachings, even if taught through the lenses of different times, locations, languages, and translations, and try to follow them as best we can. Still, we see through our own experiences, education, and beliefs, the lenses through which we see and judge life for ourselves.
We can look back and perhaps gain some objectivity concerning the impact last year had on our lives, and try to look ahead to this new year to see how the past now influences the present and probably at least some of the future. Hopefully, we can see where we’ve gone astray, mainly from being too long- or short-sighted concerning trends and possibilities.
Perhaps we might recollect and return to the General Confession of the Book of Common Prayer, “…[W]e confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”* Perhaps if we confess enough, our field of vision might change. It might not give us clarity in advance regarding pandemics and other natural disasters, but it might help us live in love with our neighbors and our world. It might encourage us to see through the eyes of others and try to understand their perspectives – and their needs.
We can’t re-live 2020, and I doubt we’d wouldn’t want to. I can hope, try my best, see 2021 as a chance to do better, and try to look beyond the surface, what “they” say, and see only what I want to see. I think that might go a long way to making it less of a “2020” year and more of a “20/20” one. We can all pray for that, can’t we?
*The Book of Common Prayer, (1979, p. 79) Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.