By Caitlyn Baldwin
When you look back on 2020, what do you want to see? It might be tempting to focus on the things that didn’t turn out like you thought they would. For me, that looks like time not able to spend with family for fear of the risk, the trips that were postponed, events large and small that were cancelled, a quarter of my first year of grad school moved online, a job put on hold. I could go on, but we all have a story of the things that have been affected in this season.
In March, the world shifted, like riding in the front seat of the car as a kid, brakes slamming and mom’s arm flinging out in front of me. We turned a corner, tires squealing at the speed, and we lurched to a halt. We moved everything online. My living room became my design studio, my laptop the window to the world. March and April, for me, were bursting with projects to finish, zoom classes to attend, and deadlines to meet. And yet, as the world shut down, it was like I could breathe again. I no longer lived by the clock in the same way that my career has conditioned me to live. The to do list was long, but I could work more slowly. I could take my time and allow myself to rest between meetings and projects. Now don’t get me wrong—the worry and uncertainty of this season is real. I feel it, and at times it is overwhelming to think about the weight of all we have collectively faced in just the first six months of 2020.
But this season of forced slowing down gave me space and allowed me to sit with some hard things—some things that I thought I’d moved beyond. And God met me in the quarantine. He met me in the moments that I felt the most fear for my loved ones and our world. He met me when I felt great loneliness and old anxieties began creeping in. He met me on my walks in the park and on my yoga mat. He met me in the virtual church services and weekly small group meetings. He met me where I am because that is who He is. He is the God who sees and draws near.
If you asked me what my time with God was like pre-quarantine, I would have said it was good. I prayed and talked to God, though mostly in the car on my drive or in stressful times, if I’m being honest. I read my Bible here and there throughout the week and in preparation for my Wednesday night small group. I volunteered on the Welcome Team every Sunday at church. I checked the boxes, right? And yet, it left me feeling empty. Pre-quarantine me had missed the point. See, I was doing all the things. I was showing up on Sundays and in small group. On the outside, I was going through the motions, but on the inside, in my heart, I was still longing for more—for more of Jesus and less of the noise of the world, but I didn’t know how to get there. I didn’t know how to hit pause on my own, to make space, to create room for God to show up in ways bigger than I could even imagine.
And then quarantine happened. And all the distractions and busy-ness and rushing around were put on pause for me. The noise dimmed. My days slowed down. And instead of filling my time with my to do list, I recommitted to reading the Bible regularly and looking for God in His Word and in the world. And when I allowed myself the space to notice, I began to see God. I began to notice Him in the details of my day—in the text from a friend at just the right moment, in the sometimes hard but always life-giving conversations in small group, in the flowers blooming in springtime, and in the fireflies dancing at dusk. I believe that what we look for, we will find. Maybe you have heard it said that if you have just bought a red car, you begin to notice all the other red cars on the road. And isn’t that so true with everything in our lives? When I’ve spent time in the Word of God, I find myself more in tune with Him, and I notice the difference in how I interact with the world. When I remember the grace that I have received because of Jesus on the cross, I am more able to extend grace when I’m in the grocery store, the only place I’ve really been since March. I’m able to see things differently because of who God is and the work that He is doing in my heart and in my life.
So, what does that mean post-quarantine and in this new normal we are now forging? For me, that means less normal and more Jesus. I do not want to return to my pre-quarantine ways because I now know they were not working. Instead of focusing on what didn’t happen in the first half of 2020 or what might happen in the future, I want to show up for each day, just as it is. I want to wake up and ask God to work through me, and then I want to give the Holy Spirit room to move. I want to tune in to God and tune out the distractions that the 21st century has to offer, because what I’ve learned in this season is that it is not simply enough to go through the motions.
When I look back on 2020, I want to see God’s faithfulness. I want to see how He made a way where I could not—how He provided time and time again for me, despite my sinful nature and tendency for distractedness. I want to see the small miracles in every day. And then I want to live each day from a place of grace, gratitude, and with a belief that whatever is to come, God is already there. When I look back on this season, I want to see how my heart has shifted toward God and toward the world. It has softened, it has been renewed, not because of anything I have done but because God met me over and over again. And He will meet you, too, right where you are if you will let Him. Start small. Find the little things. Make space. Let God into the details of your day. He will meet you there.
When you look back on 2020, what do you want to see?