2021 should be named ‘The Year of Recovery.’ For some people, it may not be a recovery year, but for me, the name makes sense. 2020 was a annus horribilis (horrible year). The pandemic struck early and caused death and suffering. The Black Lives Matter movement erupted after the violent death of George Floyd. This tragedy brought anger, looting, and protests that spread around the world. Each evening, the nightly news depressed me. Added to the mix was the mayhem of the presidential campaign that further divided our troubled nation. The first presidential debate made me wonder if civil political discourse was possible. I am generally optimistic, but 2020 pushed my limit on maintaining a positive attitude.
I started 2021 hoping for a recovery. In late 2020, I injured the sciatic nerve in my right leg and was working with a physical therapist twice a week. I did his daily regiment of exercises to strengthen my leg and lower back muscles. I slowly felt better and during February, I started running again. Then, pain erupted inside my left knee during a one-mile jog. A week of hobbling convinced me that my knee injury was not minor. An MRI diagnosed a radial meniscus tear. I thought my running days were over as I returned for more therapy.
I changed tactics and decided to see a sports doctor. After an hour exam, she recommended a sports trainer rather than surgery. My instinct said that more exercises would not correct the tear, but I gave it a try. After several months of daily home and gym exercises, I ran my first 100 meters. Over the summer, I added more short intervals: 200s, 400s, 800s, and miles. In October, I ran three miles without stopping or pain. The exercises strengthened the muscles around my knee which enabled my injured knee to withstand the pounding. What I initially believed to be hopeless became hopeful. I recovered and became more optimistic.
Once the pandemic hit, my wife and I canceled all scheduled air travel for the remainder of the year. By late 2020, we needed to decide on a previously booked January 2021 trip to Rwanda. The country was open and our licenses to see the mountain gorillas were still valid. After much research and debate, we decided to make the trip. We flew to Kigali, Rwanda on a 25% occupied commercial aircraft wearing N95 masks. We were tested for COVID four times over twelve days. Residing within remote national parks made social distancing easy. The trip was a success and better than expected as few people were traveling. Our time with the mountain gorillas was a special experience and my joy returned. When you see gorillas in their natural habitat, one cannot be a pessimist. My soul started to recover.
Fourteen days after our return from Rwanda, we worked at a vaccination clinic north of Austin. On February 3rd, we received our first Pfizer injection. Three weeks later, we drove north again and received our second Pfizer injection. I can’t describe the thrill these two jabs created. I was so thankful for all who made my vaccination a reality. As vaccination rates increased, we were able to relax more and start social gatherings with vaccinated family and friends. Last weekend, I flew with my father to San Jose to see his sister. This reunion happened because of vaccinations. I am slowly recovering from a deadly pandemic and am blessed by those who made this possible.
My wife and I last visited our Vancouver Island condo during January 2020. When we purchased it, the thought never entered my mind that the Canadian border would close. Our residence sat empty for 18 months. We departed for Colorado in early July 2021 hoping to eventually drive across the British Columbia border. Towards the end of July, the Canadian government announced the border reopening on August 9th and our hopes became reality when we drove across the border on August 19th. This reinvigorated our love of the Pacific northwest and solidified our desire to return each summer. We recovered our connection between Austin and Canada.
2021 was truly a Year of Recovery. God’s grace is also recovery. It allows the faithful to recover from their sinful past and live new with Christ. This relationship removes the past dirty baggage, and freshly clothed us. We can’t undo the past, but we are able to recover and move forward without the associated guilt or burdens. “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22–24) We all need God’s grace after a year like 2020. During this Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful for the blessing of recovery.