The texts came chiming in from friends one after another as early as 3 pm on New Year’s Eve: “Happy 2021!” and “Soooo glad 2020 is coming to an end!” and “We finally made it!”
I responded to each in similar fashion, mentally replaying the challenges, too numerous to mention, that we had all faced. Even my oldest friend, who always checks in on January 1, barely said hello before uttering, “Goodbye and good riddance 2020!” as I pictured her flipping her hands in the air on her back deck in Georgia. We couldn’t help but rehash the year that had just passed, for what else was there to say now that 2020 had settled into our collective memories?
Time to move on, we decided. Time to bid farewell and time to look ahead. Yes, what a time this year was. Saying this felt odd to me though, as I was never one to wish the time away, preferring to hold onto the present and reflect on the past, all the while looking forward to the future but never wanting it to come at lightning pace. And still today, as my children anticipate the next episode of their favorite series and my students count down the days until the next vacation, I relish the moments of the here and now. This year, however, like so many others, I really was ready to wish that time away.
With all these references to the abstract idea of time, along with images of stopwatches ticking down the minutes of 2020 and the cuckoo clock that popped up on the Google doodle, I kept coming back to a line of prayer that our priest voiced in mid-December as he lit the rose candle of the Advent wreath: “May we appreciate the passage of time.”
Until then, I had never thought about pausing to appreciate the way time passes, especially during this year when it seemed time could not pass quickly enough. As our Advent season of waiting and hoping came upon us, it seemed all we wanted to do was hurry it along, not only in anticipation of Jesus’ coming on Christmas but to get as far from 2020 as we could—as fast as we could.
So how could we come to appreciate this time? I didn’t grasp it, until that time had indeed passed and we were on the other side of the year we wished away. For if we didn’t bear witness to it, what would we have missed? Our heightened concern for one another, our days apart that made coming together all the more special, our understanding of the importance of inclusion and gratitude, our enduring trust in God to lead us through each challenge. Ecclesiastes tells us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time”—and this was our time, along with the gift to make of it what we could, even if it was no more than an appreciation.
As the New Year’s messages slowed and my family and I shared our hopes for 2021, I vowed that this year, even if I don’t fulfill all my other goals and intentions, I would appreciate the passage of time.