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  • Writer's pictureKristen Cole

"May Rough Waters of 2020 Bring you Higher..."

**Credit to Rosie's Wonders Connection Cards for inspiring the name of this post

What shipwrecked you in 2020? Are the broken pieces from the destruction still floating, significantly damaged and drifting away from your boat's center? Are you still surveying what is left versus all that was lost? Or are you already starting to gather the debris and rebuild?

I like to think I am at least starting to gather my debris. Though I am excited to have seen the year on the calendar switch from 2020 to 2021, I am also well aware that there are still rough waters ahead. While I am slowly picking up each piece of my shattered ship, being so careful not to slice open my hands from the jagged edges, I look ahead to the horizon of hope and want to aim higher this year. I want to use my 2020 personal shipwrecks for good.

I've been studying the book of Jonah from the bible - a familiar story to many people about Jonah being swallowed by a whale for three days after refusing to go to Nineveh to rebuke the people of their evil behavior. I encourage you to read the book in the bible for more insights, but my synopsis is that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he did not believe the Ninevites deserved to hear God's message or receive His forgiveness. In his mind, they were too corrupt, beyond repair and certainly just not worth it. In the digging in of his heels, God rescued Jonah from himself. God gave him a second chance. Jonah ended up going to Nineveh and proclaiming the Word and promise of God while also calling out their sin for what it was. The Ninevites turned from their evil ways and to God and were not destroyed, as had previously been planned.

And Jonah rejoiced!

Wait...nope. He didn't. He actually plopped himself down to pout about God not giving those Ninevites what they surely deserved! How could God forgive those rascals? It wasn't fair! He wanted to die he was so mad. God, in His never ending wisdom, gently used Jonah's disgust to teach him a lesson about compassion. The lesson was a weird one in that God sent a vine that provided Jonah shade in the hot sun, then sent a worm to eat the vine, killing it and Jonah's shade - which made him hot and faint. Jonah was furious.

God then made the parallel of the fact that Jonah was so outdone about the vine dying, but had trouble feeling anything but judgment toward the Ninevites who could have died, had he not carried the message of the Lord to them. God said to him - "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left." (Jonah 4:10-11)

Jonah was so tired of seeing the wicked forgiven and felt they needed to suffer and get what they deserved. God helped sweet little angry bitter Jonah see that His mercies and forgiveness are for all who repent. He surely was merciful to Jonah and heard and answered his prayers from inside the belly of a fish. Why, then, would God not respond mercifully to the Ninevites too? Jonah had to surrender his internal longing for justice for all (except maybe himself!) and trust God and the deep rough waters of life to ultimately bring him higher...

What are your 2020 disappointments? Disagreements politically? Disagreements socially? Disagreements racially? Surprising words coming out of the mouths of those you "thought you knew?" Anti-somethings? Lack-luster responses to your cause? Disagreements about kids being in school? Anything else hot button that made your blood boil? Anyone find it hard to consider some of those disappointments personified worthy of mercy or forgiveness?

Guess what. Brace yourself. They are all worthy.

If ever there was a year of rough waters, it was 2020. We have been tossed about a raging storm surged sea of change and of fear. We have have tasted sweat and tears that only we will be able to recall having lived through a grueling pandemic. We have judged others, fought others, made petty judgments of others when our own wicks have been frayed beyond repair.

There have been times of bailing buckets of water out of our sinking boats together. There have been sweet realizations that most people truly do see good, despite what the media would want us to believe. There have been gatherings of hope and connection, Samaritan work behind closed doors, vaccine development and administration, random acts of kindness, long winter days spent inside playing games and watching movies with loved ones, long winter days spent outside embracing the cold air and larger expanses of beautiful countryside previously overlooked, creativity abounding, praise songs more meaningful than ever, goodness oozing if only eyes are opened.

I know 2020 hurt my soul. The isolation and fear of the unknown paralyzed me at times. Hurtful words pierced my sensitive heart as I had to face being misunderstood while continuing to put one foot in front of the next for my kids. My empathetic heart bled over pain I witnessed in those most affected by the lack of an educational and therapeutic structure, caused by the pandemic. Remote schooling my three kids, one of whom has a significant learning disability, took a lot out of me, made me question my resolve and brought me to tears on many occasions. But it was nothing compared to many kids I have seen in my office who rely on school for food, love and safety.

My message today for 2021 is that we can allow the rough waters of 2020 to bring us higher...higher in resolve, character, love and peace. May we use what we have learned in a year of such strain to be better, take the high road, love others and appreciate their differences. Let us listen first before talking. Let us not be a part of tearing those who are different from us and our beliefs down and instead raise them higher with our own mercy and forgiveness extended.

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