One year ago today, I watched the Manhattan skyline disappear through a plane window and asked myself, “is it too late to get out of this?” Hours later, I looked out of a different plane window at the mountains and shoreline framing my new home and wondered what the coming year could possibly have in store for me.
It’s tempting to shape my entire year around how it was impacted by covid. The rise of a global pandemic definitely altered my transition to a new culture and took away a lot of opportunities I thought I’d have. It slowed my progress in building relationships and doing ministry, forced me to restructure my life and plans here, and added extra layers of confusion and anxiety to my transition into a new culture.
At the same time, it’s hard to say that covid completely derailed my first year when I look at the fullness of life that I’ve found in spite of it. There are people I wouldn’t have met and adventures I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been “stuck in Spain” for the entire year. This year has stretched my worldviews, stripped away my self-reliance, and reoriented my conceptions of time and culture. It forced me to wrestle with God through hard questions, and I was blown away as I received new glimpses into who he is. If I wish the year had gone differently, I’d be wishing those blessings out of my life along with it.
The word that has followed me around since the beginning of 2020 is “presence.” I heard it in January as I was praying for the year. I lived it through the three months of complete lockdown. I practiced it by taking time to be still and observe the world around me, by adjusting to the unhurried pace of Spanish culture, and by growing to love the specific people in my life right now. I learned it by seeing God continually provide in unexpected ways. He’s shown me this year that I can rest in his provision each day rather than worrying about security for the future.
So overall, it's been a surprising year. As I reflect back, I find myself gathering up fragments of the things that I’ve gained during my time here: lessons, discoveries, relationships, memories, truths. If I line them up, they start to form a more complete picture of my first year in Spain, a stained-glass tapestry held together by the lead lines of God’s faithfulness. The year has been strange, but God has been with me in every moment of it, and so it has been good.