Packing Up 2020: What Will I Take with Me?

Last Christmas, I had one big gift request.  Having spent much of 2019 traveling out of town at least once a month, and having done so with a 20-year old suitcase, I asked for the moon.  I asked for an Away suitcase.  An Away suitcase is the Cadillac of suitcases.  Combination lock on the outside.  Built in mobile battery charger.  All sorts of fun pockets and configurations inside.  Turns on a dime.  It was both a more efficient way to pack my things and a nod to those around me that I’m an experienced traveler.

Of course, for much of 2020, my suitcase collected dust.  (Or it would have, except that Away suitcases come with sealable canvas covers to prevent scratches and dust while not being used.)  From the look of things, my “Oh he definitely travels a lot if he has THAT suitcase” club membership will continue to sit on the closet shelf a while longer.

But my suitcase will be filled at some point in 2021, and stepping on to a plane to go see a donor face to face or provide soul care to conference attendees will bring a smile to my face.  It may even bring a tear or two.  I can imagine that feeling, and I’m ready to feel it.  But that moment is not here yet.

That’s where we are: not yet.

We want to embrace our loved ones, send our kids back to school full-time, and enter a full sanctuary.  Not yet.

We want to move on from an exhausting election and stop feeling ill will towards those with opposing political views.  Not yet.

We want to believe that George Floyd’s death and the countless protests that followed mean that America is finally confessing that Black lives have not mattered enough, and that this must change.  Not yet.

It’s even OK if, once the vaccine has ended our battle with COVID, our “new normal” requires some adjusting.  We just want to get on with whatever the “new normal” will be.  Not yet.

In 2000, U2 released “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.”

You’ve got to get yourself together

You’ve got stuck in a moment and now you can’t get out of it

Don’t say that later will be better

Now you’re stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it

Getting ourselves together is not about hoping 2021 is better.  If we hang our hopes on a different 2021, we will instead find ourselves stuck in 2020.  Rather, we must not rush to the conclusions for which we hope.  If we breathe a sigh of relief on January 20th or the moment the doctor administers the vaccine or the passing of the next piece of civil rights legislation, we will remain stuck in the moments that led us there.

Don’t throw out 2020.  Not yet.

Reflect on the year with compassion and curiosity.  Confess any harm that your anxiety may have caused yourself and others.  Mourn the meaningful moments lost to social distancing and quarantines.  Lament that we could not worship together as we once did.  Perhaps then we will have the clarity to know what belongs in the suitcase we pack for 2021 and what needs to be left to collect dust in the closet.

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