Keeping Focus

My pastor shared a version of this Chinese parable on Christmas Eve and I have been thinking about it ever since.

There was once a farmer in ancient China who owned a horse. “You are so lucky!” his neighbors told him, “to have a horse to pull the cart for you.” “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

One day he didn’t latch the gate properly and the horse ran off. “Oh no! This is terrible news!” his neighbors cried. “Such terrible misfortune!” “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

A few days later the horse returned, bringing with it six wild horses. “How fantastic! You are so lucky,” his neighbors told him. “Now you are rich!” “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The following week the farmer’s son was breaking-in one of the wild horses when it kicked out and broke his leg. “Oh no!” the neighbors cried, “Such bad luck, all over again!” “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next day soldiers came and took away all the young men to fight in the war. The farmer’s son was left behind. “You are so lucky!” his neighbors cried. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

Yes, 2020 may seem to be bad but as Charlie said…

“Don’t lose sight of the fact that our God works in crosses and dirty mangers and under the realm of kings who think they are in charge and they’re really not. What you think is bad contains good. Even within death, there is life the Gospel says. That is why we have hope and we persevere. And even though we can be weary we can rejoice in our adversity. Why? Because we know He is at work for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

Charlie McMahan

This past year has been very much so less than ideal. It has not been fun but I believe there was good here.

In 2018, there were so many blessings to our family. My son made the huge decision to serve our country in the Navy. My daughter got married. 2018 seemed to be a great year and I thought for sure 2019 would be so much better.

At the end of 2019, I was so happy to see it end because it was a rough year for me personally and professionally. I “resigned” from my position at the church I was working at and had no idea what was next. I really thought 2020 would be so much better. I knew God had a new role for me at another church that would be a much healthier situation. I even had an interview with a church that would have been a dream that did not work out.

Then I had another job opportunity with a camp & retreat center that seemed to be going well. Then the pandemic hit and everything church or nonprofit related dried up. Thankfully, God had allowed me to work at The Cone, which was a crazy adventure that had me overseeing 8 lanes of drive-thru traffic early on that eventually dropped to 6 lanes when restrictions eased up.

Then due to the pandemic, we were not able to have our son come home to visit us. In August my wife and I decided we would go out to be with him for his birthday. It was 594 days between hugs. But it was so awesome to see him and explore Whidbey Island where he is stationed. Thankfully, he was able to come home for Christmas and it had been two years since we had him home.

My wife and I celebrated 25 years of marriage. Had you told us back in 1995 what our 25th wedding anniversary would have looked like we would have laughed at you. Yet none of it matters because we celebrated 25 years of marriage and were even able to get away for a quick trip together to a cabin in Tennessee. It wasn’t the kind of trip I had dreamed of 25 years ago, but it doesn’t matter because we were together and that is all that matters.

I find it ironic that as we headed into 2020 so many were comparing it to 20/20 vision. Here is the thing, I think that it is exactly what we should have learned through all of this. I hope we all had a better vision of what was most important because we had to literally focus on that during the pandemic.

So here we are stepping into 2021 and we are all so happy to see 2020 go away because 2020 was bad, right? Maybe. And 2021 has to be good, right? Maybe.

My church, SouthBrook, posted this graphic yesterday…

My fill in the blank for it is “more loving and grace-filled”. For me, 2021 will be more loving and grace-filled than in 2020.

I am going to be going through Bob Goff’s devotional “Live in Grace Walk in Love” again this year because I want to let those messages sink in even deeper. I can not change the division we see in our country, but I can change myself and do my part to bridge the divide. I think that can only come with more love and grace. I am very hopeful for 2021, but I am not regretting 2020. There are lessons we can learn every year and it is our choice how we respond to them.

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