As a new year starts, I am usually excited to talk about my hopes, dreams, and vision for a new year. This is no ordinary year though. My mind has not been in the same place. I am still incredibly excited for the future, because I believe something better is emerging. Yet at the same time it is a painful process to start a journey to this new place.

I am thankful for the lessons I have learned. They have not been easy. The past two years have cast a light onto areas of my personal faith, my belief system, and people who I had admired, which now I want nothing to do with. I needed time to see the emptiness of my own words, thoughts, and ideas, so I could gain a better perspective.

I have spent alot of time lamenting about our current situation. We have missed out on so much. Time with family and friends. Going to the gym or movies. Eating out with friends. Travelling. Etc. However, the part I have struggled with the most is feeling trapped as the pandemic has dragged on for so long. It can feel like there really is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the past years we all have sensed this loss. We have all fought for freedom in some way. Whether by discussion, social media, or publicly, we have all have expressed our desire to be free. Some of the expressions for freedom have been from a desire to help others, some have been dangerous, some selfish, and some from frustration because of the length of time.

I want a better tomorrow. I feel like the world is broken. Yet I also know I am broken. Yet, I am becoming more grateful for the brokenness because of what I believe it will lead to.

One word that has become so real to me is, ‘Empathy.’ It is defined as, ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.’ I do not want to downplay the current situations any of us find ourselves in. The stress, anxiety, or depression you may be facing is very real. Yet there is a chance we can turn this into something that can change us for the better.

In my frustration about what I can’t do during this season, I have also realized for many in my community Covid has not changed what they can and can’t do. For example, for years we have taken groups of kids and youth out at Christmas time to dinners, movies, and other outings. Many times, I have asked them, ‘who has ever been here before?’. At times it was no one.

Sadly, almost 40% of my community live below (many far below) the poverty line. Things like a gym membership, going out for dinner and a movie as a family, having a car, a nice home, an education, and so many things I take for granted, have never been an option for them. They have spent their lives on the outside looking in at us.

Again, in my frustration about my freedom, I can easily forget that only 20-40% of the entire world lives in what we would consider a free country (depending on who’s metrics you are using).

As a follower of Jesus, this season has shed a light on how much I have missed one of the most basic parts of all scripture. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Mark 12:31

If this time has revealed anything to me, it has shown how much I am willing to fight for things if, and when, they affect me personally. However, there is a huge part of my community, your community, and our world, who have always felt trapped. They were trapped before Covid, they will be afterwards

I now cringe when I hear someone claim our current loss of freedom is a sign of the end times, as this would mean God loves us, and our freedoms, more than the majority of the world. I know my fight for freedom cannot just be for be for the wealthiest, most privileged, the white, the right sex, or just for me.

My hope is that this will season will help me grasp the despair and hopelessness people experience from felling trapped their whole lives, and for generations. Also, that I would ask myself where was my voice before Covid, and where will it be after.

The future can be different. If empathy can grow in my heart, then I can begin to learn what it means to truly ‘Love my neighbour as myself.’

Which may be the hardest command Jesus gave, as it will cost us laying down our lives for others.

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