IT IS WHAT IT IS…..OR IS IT? Lessons Learned in 2021
Have you ever looked back on a past life event and said to yourself, “Oh, now I get it!” I’m sure we all have done this at one time or another, especially at the culmination of a long, challenging year. I can remember heading into 2021 with great expectations. I think we all did. Although things have been somewhat better, many would say 2021 was nearly as difficult as 2020. In fact, the Omicron variant is soaring as we speak.
As the pandemic drags on, confusion and uncertainty often turn into frustration and resignation. I catch myself from time to time saying, “It is what it is.” This statement can be viewed in a positive light. It can prevent us from becoming overwhelmed in the midst of unfavorable circumstances. However, if we aren’t careful, we could fall into an attitude of complacency, settling for less than we should. Maybe our new mantra should be, “It is what it is…or is it?”
By adding these three simple words (or is it), we can seek to understand God’s activity in each and every situation. The possibilities are endless.
· What is God trying to teaching me?
· What is God asking me to do?
· How can I be a blessing to others?
· Who is in my sphere of influence?
· Is there anything I need to give up or walk away from?
This past year has been much more burdensome than anyone expected. It would be tempting to write it off, put it behind us, and say, “It is what it is.” Instead, let’s choose to look at the past year as a gift, an opportunity to learn the “or is it” of 2021. It would be a shame to experience all we have the past two years and not grow from it. God wastes nothing. In the midst of a trial there is always blessing for those who believe.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
2021 gave us many opportunities for great joy! I’m chuckling as I type this, but seriously reflect on how much we have all grown over the past year. Though not easy, the lessons I have learned have strengthened my faith and prepared me for the new year. I hope the same is true for you. Your lessons may be different from mine, but I feel certain you can relate to a few of these.
Lesson #1: Flexibility
If you’re an educator, you learned how to teach in person one day and virtually the next. You learned how to read children’s expressions through their eyes. You learned how to pivot as rules and guidelines seemed to change daily. You learned how to balance work and family in a whole new light. The only way to survive emotionally was to go with the flow. Flexibility has not always been easy for me, but I am learning to let go of control and not fret about the unknown. God is still in control.
“It is what it is…or is it?” Thank you, God, for developing our flexibility.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13
Lesson #2: Compassion
Our human nature is one of self-preservation, but as believers, 2021 was a year to demonstrate and develop compassion toward others. All of us had a front row seat to witness loss of life (via COVID or natural disasters), loss of livelihood, and loss of hope among those around us. We’ve learned how to set aside our own needs to provide and pray for others. Many educators across the country found themselves meeting needs in unprecedented ways. This year has truly forced me to take the focus off me and look for ways to actively serve and minister to those whom God has placed in my path.
Edward Everett Hale said, “I am only one, but I am one; I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by God’s grace, I will do.”
“It is what it is…or is it?” Thank you, God, for teaching us compassion.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
Lesson #3: Tolerance
I am defining tolerance here as appreciating and accepting differences. There has been a great deal of division this past year regarding vaccines, masks, quarantining, teaching in person or online – the list goes on and on. It is sad to hear how friendships and family relationships have been intensely damaged. Somewhere along the way, we need to choose our battles and value relationships and unity above all else. Without compromising our faith, God desires we be at peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14). We can seek to understand and engage with those who have different perspectives, and we can do so without passing judgement. It is possible.
“It is what it is…or is it?” Thank you, God, for expanding our tolerance.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Most of my lessons from 2021 have been focused around the pandemic, but we can’t forget the other challenges we have faced this past year. The natural disasters (i.e., tornados, fires and hurricanes) have been devastating. The focus on racial unrest continues to be of utmost importance and should not be dismissed. Learning to be flexible, compassionate, and tolerant are lessons we all can take with us into 2022.
I feel certain opportunities for great joy will be prevalent in 2022. There will be moments when we will be tempted to resign ourselves to “It is what it is.” But let’s not stop there. Let’s simply welcome the “or is it?” and open our hearts and minds to the lessons of 2022.
Happy New Year!