2022—A Year to Begin Closing a Gaping Agape Hole?

My faith needs bolstering these days. In general, it feels like Rocky after a few rounds with Clubber Lang…taking quite a few hits and finding itself on the ropes, hoping for the bell to ring to end the round and catch its breath before it keels over.

It is primarily my faith in people that is so wounded, after these last years of division and vitriol. We have siloed ourselves and shouted in echo chambers and across social media platforms to tear each other apart with little thought of impact or consequences.

“Us” and “them” is deeply rooted in our psyches, and I am weary from it all.

In those initial, scary weeks when the pandemic struck, I hoped that maybe a tiny positive byproduct of it would be its common enemy status—that we would come together to fight this invisible villain in order to save lives.

We did not.

While we may rise to the occasion…we fall to the everyday.

Yes, people come together in times of crisis. When Harvey ravaged Houston and people drove around in boats rescuing anyone they could find, they noted how it didn’t matter what your politics were—just get in the boat. Moments of coming together? Sure. Continued, concerted everyday efforts? Well, that’s unfortunately a different story.

Consequently, my faith is wobbly from the heart punches it has sustained and the loss it has witnessed…and I long for a way to renew it. I think that is why, as I wondered if a word for 2022 would find me, as it has for the last several years, the word “faith” was knocking on my heart.

But then bell hooks passed. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined her. And as I looked for my next thing to listen to while I do my morning exercises, Bishop Michael Curry’s Love Is the Way presented itself to me on my audiobook playlist. In listening to his Morgan Freeman-esque voice, my word for the year fell right into my heart: Love…It must be. Because it is only through love that my faith can regrow in the fertile soil of agape, and not just for me alone.

Agape, one of the seven words to describe love in the Greek language, is defined by Bishop Curry as a “sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, of society, of the world.” And in our current times, it feels like there is a gaping hole where agape love should be firmly established.

what the world needs now…

People like Curry and hooks and Tutu have lived lives dedicated to teaching that love is THE gamechanger. It is a verb—an action—that, heals, redeems, and brings about true change. It is a choice we make daily. It is what Jesus made plain: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

So…with love determining itself to be my word of the year—what exactly does this mean for me? After all, it’s not exactly a newsflash. I know love is the way.

It feels more like it is to be a recommitment.

And since agape is manifested in action, I will need to recommit to…act more. Learn. Listen. Serve. Share. Pray. Give. And more that I have yet to know.

But please do not see this as a New Year’s resolution. I am in no way thinking that with this guidance for the year—and my life—that I just need to keep at it like any other “goal.” Oh, no, no, no, no…no. This is a reminder for me to continue to wrestle with the call to love one another and live a life of love. It’s a biggie. There are those who are easy to love, and then there are those who…are not easy to love. And the call is to love the whole smash. And live it out in action. A tall order. Something that I must practice day in and day out.

And in my wearied state of wobbly faith, I don’t approach it glibly. But I do know that love wins, so even in my weariness, I must recommit to doing my best to live that love. Because otherwise? Otherwise, not only love and faith are at risk but hope, too. And where do I go from there?

I do not want to know.

So here is to 2022 being a year that plants seeds of love that develop into generous, thriving gardens of faith, hope…and more and more love.  


To love, my brothers and sisters, does not mean we have to agree. But maybe agreeing to love is the greatest agreement. And the only one that ultimately matters, because it makes a future possible.
―Michael B. Curry, Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times

The choice to love is a choice to connect―to find ourselves in the other.
bell hooks, all about love

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
―Desmond Tutu

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
―John 13:34

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
―1 Corinthians 13:13

2021: Bring Me a Renaissance!

woman with outstretched arms in front of sunrise

Even those who have had beautiful experiences this past year know that overall, 2020 sucked. We have had very hard lessons to learn and been very hardheaded (and hardhearted) about learning them.

There has been so much loss and sadness. Over 343,000 American lives have been lost to Covid, and deaths worldwide are at 1.81 million. And counting.

Many livelihoods and incomes of the 98% have been lost or are on uncertain ground. Racial inequality is screaming for justice. Hate groups are burgeoning. Our democracy is being attacked from the top down and way too many are either looking the other way or outright supporting it. Something as simple as facemasks—for the common good—have underlined a major schism rather than been an unequivocal (and easy) part of the solution to a devastating pandemic.

In many ways, 2020 is reminiscent of a simplified version of the Middle/Dark Ages, which included the bubonic plague, the Crusades, and Feudalism.

But this post is no history review (and I surely wouldn’t be the one writing it if it were). Rather, it is my chance to share with you my “word of the year.” My word for 2020 (are you ready for this?? It’s a hoot!) was play. Hahahaha! Guess the joke was on me.

But enough 2020…now is the time to look forward and strive for better things…which is why my word for 2021 is renaissance.

From the first time I studied the Renaissance in history class, I was hooked. A rebirth for learning and a love of the arts? A desire to question and create and a belief that humanity matters? Count me in.

Yes, it is more complicated than that, and there are aspects of the period that I don’t embrace, but for the sake of what I want to share here, let’s focus on renaissance in the most basic of terms: renaissance as rebirth, revival…renewal.

I want…need…2021 to be the beginning of a physical, cultural, intellectual, political, spiritual, and personal renaissance.

A rebirth of health and hope for one another. A reconstituting of our communities so that solidarity and diversity not only exist but rely on one another. A re-embracing of science to protect ourselves and our earth. A rebuilding of our systems to create equality and justice. A re-examining of religion that focuses on living out one’s faith rather than using it as a weapon…and a renewal of self and purpose that supplants the feeling of “untetheredness” that has overwhelmed me this past year.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…that’s a pretty tall order for a decade, let alone a year, but…we have to start somewhere, right? And why not right after a year that has taught us so much about the things we need to change? The term “inflection point” has become a buzz phrase for so many issues we face because this is indeed a time where significant change can happen—if we push for it.

So I’m pushing for it. Come on, renaissance!

But while there is much work to do in the wider world…I’m pretty sure my renaissance needs to start with me.

There are many personal things that 2020 has let us see with very different eyes. Our cloistered worlds have helped us learn what and who really matter in our lives…and what and who don’t. It’s put a ton of choices in front of us and given us the opportunity to “redecide” or reassess what about our “former” lives we want to have as a part of our “new” lives—and what is better off left as a memory.

At least for me, I know I need to be purposeful about these changes and not just let life morph into “whatever.” A few of the things that 2020 has helped me see more clearly include:

—My forever arch-nemesis Poor Time Management has been winning many battles, and I need to get off my ever-expanding tuckus and create a structure that helps me to win the war (or at least win a few battles here and there). This renaissance requires energy and effort—and PTM is like a vampire sucking those two commodities right out of me.

—Something as simple as hugs have renewed value to me. Once social distancing no longer needs to be a part of our safety protocol, look out, people. This Italian is coming for you with wide open arms.

—I have also been better able to assess where my efforts are best put, and things like one-sided relationships…where I’m the side doing all the reaching…are perhaps not the best use of my energies. Better to spend it on those relationships that see me as worth reaching for, too.

—I still need more play in my life.

These are but a few of the personal aspects of my renaissance that I can make choices about—there are many more that are part of the mix.

Yes…2021 can be the start of so many wonderful changes and choices…but it first needs the belief that these changes and choices are possible—that they are within Hope’s reach—and Hope, at least mine, has been under assault for several years now.

So perhaps that is the best place to start. 2021 is bringing hope—however tenuous—for positive change, and we need to grab hold of it for dear life and go where it leads us.

We are not done with the darkness, and we never will be—but we can’t afford to be hope-less. Not now. Not ever.

So come on, 2021—shine a light for us at the end of this dark year and lead us into a renaissance of health, hope, healing…and love. And may this be just the beginning.