The Year Everything Changed
--Pastor Jamey Nichols
2020 will likely be a year we use to mark time. For the next three or four decades, I expect many of us will pause to think about days gone by and say something like, “Let me see now, COVID was 2020 and that was the same year Jamey left FCC and Trump was voted out of the White House.” It is an unusual year because of memorable events, but is any of it so significant in the grand scheme of eternity? Truthfully, I think not.
I was deliberate with my hyperbole when I titled this article. COVID is not really that big a deal—it is big only in our minds and for the moment—this, too, shall pass. Same with Presidential politics which will continue its perpetual and predictable bounce from one bombastic moment to the next. Folks just keep getting worldier. As for my departure from FCC, a little perspective: I represent only one pastor in the history of a church that has seen two dozen different pastors in her 126-year history. One of the search committee members who brought me here was the late John Bussell, and he once told me something he had learned from a former supervisor. “Essentially,” he said, “no one is really that important. It only seems so in the moment. In reality, it’s like the space your hand takes up when submerged in a pail of water. It seems like your hand occupies a lot of space until you pull it out. The hole you leave is quickly filled in.”
As I reflect on time as an unfolding quantity, I suppose that “big deals” sort of make sense in a context where one day follows the next. It’s the most memorable events that move forward with us while the ordinary days are lost in the nebulous ether of history. Shocking news, death of a loved one, or accomplished rites of passage remain with us because we deemed them meaningful at the time. I don’t mean to sound despairing, but I do question the ultimate meaningfulness of those moments.
I recall a significant moment in my own toddlerhood where I was standing on the couch looking out the window. My older brother was outside in the snow with my dad. They were popping up and down on opposite sides of our old red Chevy Impala. They were having a snowball fight and it looked like loads of fun. I wanted to be included but mom told me, “No,” because I already had my pajamas on. That memory was meaningful enough to that little boy it has moved forward with me for 50 years. Was it important? I suppose to a toddler it was. And, if you define important as anything memorable, sure. But I define the term differently now. When I think of something important, I wonder about God’s definition. God—the eternally patient and all-powerful One who orchestrates the affairs of humankind in order to bring about his momentous objectives. Creation, fall, redemption, eternity. Those are the things that really matter. Missed snowball fights, a virus du jour, one president in a line of many sketchy politicians—these are just the normal comings and goings of our broken lives here in this place. From this perspective, the smallness of our perceived big deals becomes clearer. It’s like that 2 Corinthians passage you’ve often heard me quote, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Most of what we consider big deals—those seemingly important things we use for a while to mark time—are primarily temporary things we see with human eyes. I hope for myself and for all of you (!) to grow in spiritual capacity such that we judge a matter’s importance through God’s eyes and from His perspective. His is the only perspective of real importance and the what/how/where/when of the details of our fleeting existence here bear very little vis-à-vis the significance of our eternal existence with our Creator-Redeemer in His kingdom come.
Thank you, FCC, for the wonderful years. I love you all and I look forward to an ongoing, eternal friendship with you. Also, I am delighted to continue as a physical neighbor for the foreseeable future. Given that, I’m sure I’ll see you again very soon. Praying with you and for you in the days ahead. And, of course . . . Merry Christmas!