Writing this holiday column reminds me our nation is nearing the end of one of the most trying and unpredictable years in American history.
Divisions in the political realm and disagreements as to the most effective manner by which to deal with the coronavirus pandemic have served to breed animosity one toward another in ways I cannot recall. Toss in the inexcusable death of George Floyd earlier in the year and the social unrest which followed only adding fuel to an already roaring fire.
Our nation has witnessed the death of approximately 300,000 as a result of the pandemic with millions more facing near-death experiences in our hospitals as many others suffer with the virus at home. We have watched our healthcare workers toil through one step and patient at a time in possibly the worst healthcare crisis our country has experienced while dealing with anger and tears, as our law enforcement community has continued to come under attack.
Our family has not escaped the coronavirus onslaught. My son, daughter-in-law and I have each succumbed to the sickness. My daughter and daughter-in-law each work in healthcare, one as a nurse and the other as a surgical PA. Schedules have been difficult for them and the extensive hours have served to wear them down both physically and mentally as they see their patients’ suffering first hand. Our daughter has been tested for the virus more than two dozen times in the past nine months.
Several friends have passed this year with a number of senior adults in my own church moving from this life into eternity. But the funeral services which have managed to bring a tear to my eye have also served to bring peace and assurance. It is in those moments when I am reminded who is in control of this world, even in its most chaotic and depressing hours.
For those who have accepted Jesus Christ as personal savior, there comes an inner peace in knowing who wrote the final chapter in the book and thereby remains in control of this planet, even when it seems to be spinning out of control somewhere out in the universe. The same loving father who is there with us in those mountaintop experiences draws even closer when we wander through the valley. He is ever-present.
Am I concerned with the direction I see this nation taking as we enter a new year? Certainly, I am. I continue to see a shift toward liberal policies which favor each man or woman to deciding for himself what is right instead of holding true to the foundational principles which founded this nation. I see anger and violence being viewed as the answer in those times when two parties or groups are unable to agree upon a solution. Civil discourse has almost been relegated to the pages of history, as politicians, athletes, individuals and even a few churches no longer have the desire or ability to sit peacefully and come to an agreeable accord.
But in the midst of the chaos, uncertainty and hatred which have commandeered the headlines, I have still found reason for hope in 2020. I am learning that a single grain of good can still be discovered in what is often a pile of rubble, debris and shattered dreams.
Possibly the greatest news for our family this year was provided at Thanksgiving when our son and his wife shared the news we would become grandparents in July 2021. New life is still coming into this world, but with the celebration comes the responsibility to raise the child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Never has there been a time when children need Christian direction, love, patience and encouragement like they do now.
This adorable baby boy or girl will be welcomed by loving parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles. The child will be raised in church and reminded constantly how much he or she is loved. But at the same time, my son and daughter-in-law will be charged with an even greater responsibility than my wife and I were almost three decades ago when our firstborn entered the world and was laid in our arms.
Social media and broken homes may be near the top of the list of situations which will serve as a threat to my grandchild. But, so too, will be the biased national news media, rampant drug use, peer pressure and so many other issues. But again, I take assurance in the fact Almighty God remains on the throne and His loving hand of protection will encamp around the next generation in our family. And even when those hard times inevitably come, this child will be raised with the assurance a loving God knows his name, bears his burdens and loves him, in spite of his failures and insecurities.
Despite the political turmoil facing our nation, I was honored to lead a collective group of Democrats and Republicans earlier this year in Montgomery in a time of prayer, reflection and tough conversations.
I gained confidence that ground can be gained in race relations and other issues which serve to divide us. Kneeling beside a colleague from the other political party, holding hands and listening to what bears down upon his heart proved to be a time of encouragement. Are there still differences, certainly. But time set aside among colleagues to pray and hear one another has given me hope.
We will see where the planted seeds grow and mature in the coming months. I would like to think this time of prayer and companionship will serve us well in the upcoming legislative session. When those the public views as foes from opposing parties come together to pray, there is no limit to how God can use this moment to bless His people and the state served by those very same leaders.
So, as we continue to move forward in this time of uncertainty and fear, may we gain assurance and hope in the blessings still being provided by the Good Lord, including the hope which results from the same. If there is one thing our nation needs now beyond spiritual healing, it is hope. And my prayer is that hope and peace can be found in your homes this Christmas season.
State Representative Tracy Estes is a Republican representing House District 17, which includes Marion, Lamar and Winston Counties