Coarse sand massaged our skin as we nestled into the beach of Ville-franche-sur-Mer. Sounds of gentle turquoise waves and tummies full of French delicacies put us at ease. Next to me, my best friend and wife, Megan, whom I met 14 years ago at Biola as staffers on The Chimes. I was experiencing bliss, overwhelmed with a spirit of gratitude for the path our life and marriage had taken.
We had clawed through the Great Recession as newlyweds, found our way from California to Minnesota for the advancement of my sports journalism career, and weathered the choppy waves of building a business. After 10 years of marriage, it felt as if we had finally found our stride.
Megan’s creative marketing agency, MaeMae & Co., had taken off and I was a year into a career leap of faith: I started writing a book exploring vulnerability and healing through family tragedy and dreamed of launching a sports faith-focused publication.
Overcome by joy as we lay on that beach, I thanked God for his faithfulness and blessings. What I felt next was as if it had been whispered into my ear — a gentle prompt to savor this moment. Somewhat confused by the implications, I followed the cue and pulled Megan closer.
Not even a month had passed since our June 2018 anniversary vacation when the first of what felt like two years of constant storms rolled into our lives. We saw evil in ways no one should while helping a young woman fight for freedom from a lifetime of sexual abuse and depression. In early 2019, a week after hearing our baby’s heartbeat, we watched a quiet and motionless ultrasound tell us Megan would soon miscarry. The following months Megan suffered sciatic nerve pain and vertigo. Brain scans found a pair of tumors. We saw sun peeking through the storm clouds when it was determined the tumors were benign, Megan was once again pregnant, and the vertigo subsided.
Then three months into her pregnancy, the world began shutting down. As Covid-19 rapidly spread, Megan’s thriving business stalled. Fears of losing all we had worked for set in. Soon after, less than eight miles from our home, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
Our city began to riot. Our community, churches and friend groups were facing disunity. Even Megan was being pressured by her large social media following to pick a side of the social and racial unrest. As Megan’s third trimester of pregnancy approached, we found ourselves mostly isolated when a handful of local friends tested positive for Covid-19 or were exposed. And while we watched our financial savings slowly drain, a few bad investments smothered us with more anxiety. Hope was fading.
We eventually hit bottom. It was firm.
Our experience at the bottom was the antithesis of our blissful beach moment. How appropriate that when I temporarily felt on top of the world I was laying in “Sinking Sand,” the working title of my book. But when my world felt like it was crumbling I found refuge and new hope on a firm foundation.
I believe this is a message many of us could benefit from right now. People of all backgrounds are being severely impacted and divided by the pandemic and social unrest. But instead of choosing a side, consider choosing compassion and empathy. Jesus told us among the greatest commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself. The New Testament also reminds us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Give these prompts a try and see what comes of it.
Let us not look back on 2020 with regret. Yes, this year has been challenging. It broke me. But as I rebuild on my firm foundation, I am leaving behind in the rubble weakness and picking up the beauty produced in this season of refinement.
Among that beauty is our son, Griffin Jude Gonzalez, born on Aug. 28, 2020. He is a reminder of the new joy and grace we are offered each morning. Megan explained his arrival in our lives with these words: “Our son. Perfect in every way. Born as summer fades into fall, night turned to light and calm replaced a storm. His arrival marks a new season. A little rainbow baby, a fulfillment of many promises. We are so in love.”
Love is what gives us the strength to persevere. I was lost for months in the idea of losing all this world has provided me. “Uncertain times” are a breeding ground for discontent. Yet love is not uncertain. May we remind ourselves each day compassion, empathy and love never fail.
Jason Gonzalez (’07) spent 10 years as a national award-winning sports journalist at newspapers in Los Angeles and Minneapolis before pursuing a call as an independent writer and author. He recently joined new media startup iPondr as a narrative assigning editor. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Megan (’08), son Griffin and dog Hope. Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the family’s journey on Megan’s Instagram account @MaeMae_Co.