It is not something you will hear often but the last three years have been, for me, a blessing. I would place the beginning mark sometime in October of 2019 with a culmination in the last few days. I am forever hopeful that a culmination of one event will not preclude further good things, I am using culmination in a military sense. I mean perhaps one major operation has concluded. It is now time for the after-action review.
I do not mean to be dismissive of reality. I realize that my wealth greatly decreased in 2023 compared to 2019, wealth that is unlikely to ever return. I pay for groceries and buy fuel, I know about these things. I have watched, just as you have, the world go mad through cycles of fear and paranoia. I am aware of this and much more. I am aware of as much of it as a person can be. I have suffered and still suffer from all the same maladies and privations that all of us have endured. My assertion that all of this was a blessing to me is not intended to ignore or diminish all that. I am also not saying that I prospered in some way that many did not. I could have, my phone rang a few times last year about a thing across the water but I did not go in for that. I am not speaking of material gains or losses in all this when I say I see it all as a blessing.
If I were to use an analogy I see it as a coach making a football squad run wind sprints at the end of a two-a-day practice in August under the Southern sun. Nobody wants to do it and everybody is tired, Some complain and mumble, and others loaf, running just fast enough to get by. But the act itself is a blessing. If a young man is to have the stamina to slobber knock through four quarters and perhaps into overtime the difference in winning and losing might be endurance. The coach, blowing a whistle ruthlessly in the hot sun is disciplining weakness, it is a blessing to those that endure and receive it. A blessing that may not be realized until a couple of months later in some important game. Sports-ball analogies are trite but they work, we get them, most of us.
So what do I mean when I say this has all been a blessing to me? I mean clarity, wisdom, understanding, peace, and validation. Let me clear up the validation part quickly so that it is not confused with vindication. It is true, I wrote things beginning ten years ago that spoke to why and what was bound to happen. I wrote a book in the fall of 2019 that said it would happen this decade. Not because I am a prophet, the information is out there, easy to read, and piece together. The validation part is that I was not crazy. That I used skills from my profession (my vocation) to understand something about the world many did not. I was not, at least then and about that, a fool. And that leads to the sixth way in which I believe I was blessed by all this, purpose.
Lastly, and related to all the others, I have made a lot of friends in the last three years. I have made more friends in the last three years than at any other time in my life. And these are different sorts of friends, serious people dedicated to a refusal to be lied to or deceived. Those are interesting and good friends to have; honest thinkers.
All of history since the fall has been a progression of man away from his created purpose. The effects of sin compounded over time. Only common grace prevents us at this point from living as beasts that perish. All of history can be defined as a return to Genesis 3 followed by periods of rejection and reformation and then a repeat of the cycle. Nothing is new under the sun. Everything around us in our age of mass information is a deception of sorts, some larger, some smaller. There is a deception out there tailored to various presuppositions waiting to seduce everyone.
The roller coaster news cycle, the reactions, overreactions, and absurd dialectic tribalism proved the latter and validated most of the former. We are but children it seems, some puffed up in arrogance but all seem so easily swayed by delusions crafted to their worldview. I gained a lot of friends in this period but lost a lot of acquaintances. I broke fellowship with some actual friends that could not be dissuaded from their delusions. It took three years to heal some of those. But the clarity separated the wheat from the chaff.
My faith grew exponentially. Not simply my faith but my understanding and discernment of spiritual matters. When the reality of the world becomes clear in the ways described above a person has only two choices; embrace a comfortable delusion or refer to the Book that explains it all. My theological knowledge grew also, a lot. My understanding of Reformed doctrine that I professed in 2019 is much more robust in 2023.
I came to know something about what I could know and what I could not possibly know. Circumstances conspired at one point in 2020 to place me and a group of men like me into an association together. We determined to use the skills from our profession to help us understand what was going on. I have written about all that here before but the biggest thing that taught me was that you can see the patterns and indicators, things most people do not see. You can use a methodology to template networks and actors. You can use all that to postulate on intent. But what you cannot do is understand the mind of people pulling levers. Some of what you can see is deception and some will be partial in hard to understand. Even the clear things cannot tell you what is in their head. Knowing that someone is doing something, and using specific tools to do it cannot fully tell you what their objective is. All of that work we did, seeing things that few others saw, and those that did lied about it or got it all wrong, but seeing that and learning how much was unknowable generated wisdom.
The wisdom to know that some things are simply unknowable led to understanding. Everything that has gone on is ultimately related to sin, but more specifically the sins we associate with the greatest of human vice; power-lust and greed. Closely allied with those we find arrogance and hubris as enabling sins. We cannot know who did all this and why. We can suspect, but that leads to the trap of delusions and lies and intentional traps. But we can know that humans often act on the base vices of seeking power and greed. Whoever and for whatever reason they would state as an objective the ultimate reason are those two vices. Understanding that puts it all into perspective and adds a degree of peace.
“Ours is not to reason why ours is but to do and die” is not merely the epitaph of a foolhardy and wasteful expenditure of rider and horse in Crimea in the 19th century. Ultimately it is essentially the meaning of life (with caveats). I do not mean we ought not to ponder the why at all, we certainly should as it helps us gain clarity, wisdom, and understanding. But once gained we run into a theological brick wall of a high mystery. The same brick wall that birthed existentialism and heresy. The same one that causes doubt, fear, and confusion in those without clarity, wisdom, and understanding. Why is the world this way if there is a God? It is this way because man is a sinner and God is sovereign. The details are part of a high mystery. Arrogance wants to reject that. Foolishness denies it. Hubris demands we reason out a different understanding. But it is just that simple, and complex.
Ours is but to do our duty while we live, for we will one day die. Duty relates to calling and purpose and ultimately and in most cases where things are balanced that purpose aligns with our vocation. We could not reasonably ever be called to do something we have no talent for. I was blessed in 2020 to be able to associate with others and use skills from my vocation to help just a small few. We are not guaranteed a glorious and prestigious duty, sometimes a person has to mop the latrine just to keep things running smoothly. We do the things we should, with the skills we have to address the problems placed before us. That is a simplistic way of describing us doing the thing God made us for. My pals and I did not literally clean latrines in 2020 but the analogy stands.
There is More
Through all that I found the words of truth and wisdom to speak to people I love things they needed to hear. I found the humility to apologize to people I was harsh with and the fortitude to rebuke people that were in need of it. I grew confident in knowing when I could act on principles in a way others would disagree with and when I ought to be socially acceptable. I grew to favor the former more than the latter. I held my grandson and looked into the eyes of a Clark man that will live to see things I cannot even envision. I sat across the table from my daughter's future husband, holding him captive for a couple of hours as I explained the world according to me before granting permission to marry her. My wife and the dogs loaded into the car and drove around the country. I learned the important art of leisure, not time-wasting and mindless entertainment but the leisure that has been lost to us. I learned the difference between doing one's duty and changing the world. I learned to enjoy quiet dinners on the back deck with just the wife and rediscovered conversation for the sake of conversation. I learned to enjoy walks for the journey and not the sweat – my boxer taught me that. I prayed more often and more openly. I got out and met my neighbors, those that would allow themselves to be met.
I am a changed and better man because of everything that occurred in the last three years. I am blessed for that. You probably are too if you think about it.