I looked over my post at the end of last year and had to laugh at all the places I thought I would be going in 2020.
We live a quiet life in Iowa, and so it is nice to balance routine with a change of pace and a change of place. I’m planning to attend and hopefully to contribute at three conferences: the Kuyper Centennial Conference in NYC (April), the European Neo-Calvinist Conference (August), and AAR in Boston (November). I’ve also been accepted into Fuller’s residential TheoPsych research colloquium, which will take me back to California for a couple of weeks in July. And, of course, we are planning various family trips throughout the year.Post from December 30, 2019
All of the above were canceled or moved online. Small potatoes in light of everything. But in addition to losing anticipated trips, the year had plenty of quiet disappointments, if not defeats. Giving a commencement address to an empty auditorium. Not seeing my book on the table in the book hall at SBL/AAR. The cancellation of my friend Peter’s wedding celebration (twice). Watching people leave our church in a time of hyper-charged polarization. A corresponding crisis of confidence in the church and in power of rational argument to stem the tide.
What a strange and difficult year it has been. With so much division, disease, and death, it’s also hard to know what to say. The fabric of our common life seems torn beyond repair, and life online seems calibrated to make us despise the neighbors we have been called to love.
And yet, humans are brilliantly creative, not just brilliantly destructive. There is brokenness, but there is also so much beauty. And there is also redemption, even if it sometimes seems so far away. So, we look up, and lean into our story with hope.
I will say that this was the first year that I started drinking coffee regularly. I’m about to turn 40, and I somehow made it through college, ministry, and three graduate programs without developing a coffee habit. But 2020 turned me into a daily-coffee-drinker.
But this is not a complaint. And it is hard to complain. We are healthy, happy, and our cup runs over with ordinary blessings. Here are some that we’ve experienced this year:
– Our family loved being at home together (at least for the first four months). We had some of the sweetest times we’ve had as a family during those months of quarantine, attempting at-home-learning, playing Mario Kart, and enjoying life as a family. We also got to take one trip to the nearby metropolis of Yankton, SD to do real life Mario Kart (we were the only ones on the track!)
– Melissa continues to thrive at her job. She recently received a major promotion, and I couldn’t be prouder!
– We enjoyed hosting our good friend Joshua for six weeks this fall. He fit in well with the rhythms of our family life, and we loved having him as part of our quaran-team. Below is my portrait of him, drawn during breakfast one morning. I don’t remember why he has a sword.
– I loved teaching this year! We had to make the transition to online learning in the spring. Being online wasn’t that bad, but embodied presence made a big difference, at least for my mental health! We were able to be in-person in the fall. I taught wearing a mask, and my students all wore masks as well. But as I told them I would wear three masks if necessary to teach in person. The masks were really not a big deal; most days I forgot I had mine on.
– I did a good amount of preaching this year (30 sermons). In particular, I enjoyed preaching regularly for Bridge of Hope CRC. I also probably did the most writing I’ve ever done in a year. My top piece was my Kobe Bryant piece, written for In All Things.
– I published my first book, Reimagining Apologetics. Perhaps you’ve heard me mention it. =) I have been so blessed by all the love that my friends, family, colleagues, and students have shown it. I have enjoyed doing podcasts and interviews. And it is amazing to see it out “in the wild”!
Related to this, I began experimenting with building an online platform, through this site, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I learned how insecure I am and how much work it is and how hard it is not to get lost amidst the noise. But the practice of putting out consistent content built my confidence and focused my public scholarship. Many thanks to John Hwang for helping me come out of my cave. I’m playing the long game, so expect more in 2021!
In any case, thank you for tuning in, following, and supporting my work. May God bless the work of all of our hands in 2021.
“There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.” (Marilynne Robinson)