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Looking Back At 2020

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It was December 31st, 2019.

I was in Atlanta, GA, attending a conference called Passion, exactly one year ago from today. And what hopes I had for 2020, the start of a new decade, as thousands and thousands of college students from around the world gathered at the Mercedes-Benz stadium to worship God, seeking to glorify Him all the more as we ushered in this new decade. "This is going to be a great decade!" we all said. "Something about 2020 makes me excited," remarked my friend to me on the way back home. It was going to be a great year.

Passion 2020

And then 2020 arrived. I recall, as I returned to Cornell for the spring semester of my sophomore year, all the idealism that I had brought to campus from back home: a hastily designed schedule of 30 credits of schoolwork from an unrealistic pre-enroll, hopes for making new friends and growing closer with old ones, and becoming more disciplined in my morning routine (from simply waking up before the 12th alarm ring, to reading my Bible while munching on french toast).

But that all changed on March 10th, 2020.

It was an email from the registrar, telling all of us at Cornell to go back home. thanks to COVID-19 (which should be called COVID-20 at this point). That came as a huge shocker, since at the time, the coronavirus was simply not a problem for me, especially as a sheltered college student in the upstate New York bubble. All the more, many of my close friends were graduating that semester, and I had planned to spend quality time with them before they embarked on the next steps in their journies in the real world. But in that instant, all of our plans were vaporized to ash.

Packing up

My plans for the semester were flipped upside down, but those weren't the only plans to get destroyed. As soon as I got home, I got yet another email, this time from my Google recruiter. I had been in the queue for a host match with one of the engineers for a summer internship. "We're sorry," said my recruiter, "but we are going to have to stop your host match, right here and now." Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed. Of all places, Google--the company for whom I had studied my data structures and algorithms religiously over that winter break for hours on end every single day--after having passed three separate phone screens, had cancelled my soon-to-be internship in the project matching stage.

Things were looking bleak. I had grown unmotivated from schoolwork because, well, Zoom classes simply were not doing it for me. Virtually meeting my friends on the weekends in my room while eating dinner alone was, quite frankly, not fun. There was so much tension on the news, election approaching and people unjustly dying, churches closing. I quickly fell into depression, and my goals for that semester--finding my morning routine, staying healthy, excelling in school, securing an internship, and most importantly, growing in my relationship with God--all seemed to fall apart, just like that.

But all was not lost.

The semester ended, and I somehow got all A's and A+'s for the first time ever at college. Someone from my project team reached out to me in May to connect me a company called Wasabi, and soon after I got my first internship at a hot cloud storage company (wink). Cornell granted me permission to stay in my dorm to quarantine for two weeks before the fall semester began, which saved me thousands of dollars, and effectively allowed me to attend in-person classes. I had the best semester ever this fall despite the pandemic, and I found friends who could keep me accountable in all walks of my life, friends whom I could trust.

Emmaus Road bois

As I reflect upon the past twelve months of my life, I realize that there is one key lesson I have learned--one thing that God has taught me through the hilltops and the pits. Something that I think I always knew, but didn't really know until now, if that makes any sense. It was this nugget of wisdom:

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21

and

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. – Psalm 4:6-7

It is easy to praise God when life is "good." But when all my plans seemed to fall apart, all I could think in the moment was "How is God going to make good out of this mess?", not realizing that it was the other way around, removing the junk that had cluttered my life. He was simply ridding the false idols in my life--academic success, career, friendships, and my own plans--and making me turn to Him in desperation. God was refining me through fire so that I could glorify Him regardless of the circumstances in which I was placed.

Roll tide!

Most of all, God was showing me that He loved me, pruning the problematic thorns out of my life: selfishness, pride, and self-sufficiency. Like a good father, the Father demonstrated His love for me in that while I was still deep in sin, He loved me infinitely more than I loved Him back. When I thought I was "rich" and "needed nothing," yet in reality was "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked," He graciously showed me the truth.

So, I thank God for this crazy year.

I know God is good, and I think I "knew" that ever since I believed the Gospel in high school. But this year, this 2020, shed a little more light onto God's character and how my life fits in this beautiful tapestry known as history: that God is love, and history is His story.

I am finishing up writing this blog post as the year comes to a close. Sitting in front of my TV, watching a virtual Passion 2021 on YouTube, I look forward to a 2021 of good circumstances--and the bad ones, too, knowing that God is truly Lord over it all. He is my calm in the storm.

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10