2022 saw a lot of firsts for me.

I welcomed my first daughter-in-law to the family. She’s absolutely delightful, and spending a solid week with her over Christmas was a real joy.

I welcomed my first grandchild to the world. A stunning and life-changing experience, so unlike becoming a parent, as many of my more senior friends have attested to me.

I am currently suffering my first COVID case – the third symptomatic day, along with (at least) six other family members from our “pod” during Christmas week (two may have escaped uninfected so far). At day 4 it’s no worse than an average cold, and I credit being fully vaccinated and boosted for that. Also, this is literally – LITERALLY – the first time I’ve been sick since 2019. Three years with no flu, no cold, no COVID until this week. Masking and distancing and hand sanitizing works – despite multiple confirmed exposures and plenty of airline travel and work in confined spaces. I’m proof. It may not keep you from getting sick if you spend hours nuzzling a baby who’s infected, but hey, it will make it bearable.

COVID patient zero appears to be my baby granddaughter, who probably caught it the day before she arrived to our gathering (we all have no idea how), and we realized in retrospect was symptomatic for a couple days before the rest of us. Nearly all the adults tested, and nobody else was positive when we arrived. If I had to choose, I think I’d just deal with it and still spend the time together. It’s teaching all of us about being selfless and caring for each other.

I’m also experiencing first-hand, for the first time, how important protecting OTHERS is. I’ve spent three years preaching the importance of wearing masks for the sake of those around me, not just my own sake, and now I get to put it into practice the few times I need to be in public. Sanitizing my hands before pumping gas on the way home from our gathering in Virginia, for instance, or masking and sanitizing when I picked up the Paxlovid dose and various meds for the gang of us.

The COVID good news is now I can go unmasked for a couple months this winter while I’ll be traveling for business and working extended days with large crowds in some indoor spaces. And I’ll finally be able to eat out with worry for that business trip. That has me really really happy.

I’ve changed my perspective on dozens of things I once found irrefutable and “absolute truth.” It’s been a long and careful and disconcerting process, but it’s been so worth it. I sense that my faith is infinitely deeper than it used to be, even though it looks little like it did before. “Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It” by Brian D. McLaren is a good book that I find pinpointed a number of steps in my process.

For the first time, I have a much broader, more scholarly view of the Bible, its origins, its complexity, its apparent contradictions, and so forth. As a long-time Biblical apologist, I now realize how much I was missing, and how gentle a great many people were with my arrogant and loud foolishness and blindness. Thanks to you all who were patient with me.

I also finally concluded this year that I’m okay with LGBTQ identity and expression, following a ton of study of scriptures and writings by solid believers. If we judge something by its fruit, I’ll call it good – I’ve had such a deeper peace about what’s going on in culture and in my heart as a result. I’m sure many will say of course I’m peaceful because I’m willing to call sin righteousness and not need to confront others about their sin. Actually, it’s led to a LOT more confrontation with many – most – believers. But I’m fine with that, and I find that I can have those conversations with total peace, even while I watch those I’m talking to become incredibly angry, defensive, even usually quite hostile and accusative. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace, and I find all those in my life, and what I see in the non-affirming crowd doesn’t look like that fruit.

I also really committed to blogging in 2022. I started in late 2020, but it really kicked off in 2022. So far I’ve published over 100 entries, and also recorded 60 of those as audio podcasts. (I’m about to try my hand – actually my face – at video blogging too. I bought a teleprompter app for my iPad and I look forward to trying it out in 2023.) Being so public in my speaking is challenging me to refine my thinking and reach some clarity before sharing what I feel is important. It’s still a very low-visitor thing, just five to ten views per post/podcast, and I’m fine with that. The people who interact with my content seem to care, and so I feel more like it’s discipling people, instead of standing on the street corner yelling at the world.

Speaking of standing on the street corner yelling at the world, I joined Twitter (less than a year before Elon Musk… well, tried to tear it apart). It’s been an interesting experience, because I realize that what I say there has some permanence, unlike my blog which I can edit later. But it’s also far more interactive. Also, it’s given me a ton of insight into how a great many more people think, and made me a much sharper thinker about topics, because I seriously got outside my echo chamber.

So that’s a (probably incomplete) list of my firsts in 2022, in my mid 50s. I’m sure there will be more in 2023. I would like to be able to say that I am sorry to disappoint so many conservative evangelical people in my life as my faith has deepened and changed and doesn’t look like theirs any longer, but I’m really not sorry. I’m okay with walking the road I’ve been called to walk, and it reminds me of Jesus’ comment to the man who said said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62, NASB) I hope my family and friends will join me someday on this road – it’s got a LOT to commend it – but I don’t begrudge anyone who cannot make a similar leap – that’s something I learned (and I’m still learning) from McLaren’s book. I love them all either way.

Happy New Year to you – I look forward to continued relationship, to continued dialog, and I pray for God’s best in your life and in your spirit.

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