The world’s gone mad. My husband and I went to the Starbucks up the road yesterday. It was empty and all the tables and chairs were put away. The sight of it was like a punch in the gut. With every day that passes, the landscape of our lives is changing. I never thought our country would be in this position. None of us did.
Yesterday I went to Target and Kroger and I could feel the weight of stress in the air. As I looked around at the few people shopping, I could sense the fear and shell shock. People would pass by and look at each other, but not know what to do. We all knew we needed to stay apart, but we also felt drawn to each other. The isolation is taking its toll.
The normal, comfortable life we once took for granted is gone. What will the next few days bring? The next few weeks? Months? No one knows. We are in uncharted territory. Our blessed society is in crisis. And when you think about it, we were due. Part of me thinks this is right where God wants us. Primed for learning, listening, and growth. Primed for depending on Him. God is good and we will get through this. But, how we get through this is another issue. Will we learn? Will we grow? Will we grieve the losses we may endure? Personally, I hope that I come through this with dignity and a hopeful attitude. However, feeling and expressing grief, fear, and helplessness are also a healthy part of the process.
In uncertain times, it is important to remember that the glass is half empty and it is half full. The glass can never be just one or the other. A half full glass is also half empty and a half empty glass is also half full. Life is scary and uncertain. Life is also wonderful and full of blessings. To have highs, we must also have lows, lest we flat-line. We must feel our feelings, not avoid them. Don’t be ashamed to cry, vent, and acknowledge the uncomfortable situation we find ourselves in. It sucks. Cry out to God. He hears us. He sees us. He knows us. And he knows what we need.
Social Distancing not Social Isolation
While we all love it, technology has often been viewed as the enemy. It is a constant battle for parents to protect their children and regulate its use. However, what has been seen as the enemy in many ways in our society, is now our lifeline. Bizarre, isn’t it?! Studies have shown that social media fosters disconnection. It’s time to flip technology around. We must create a different kind of online community, one that leads to connection. The following is an excerpt from a paper I recently wrote for grad school.
God created human beings to exist in the context of relationships. Only within community can we achieve mental and emotional health. Humans were created for three levels of community. The first and most basic level is proximity. This is the space of physically being around and next to people. This includes working at Starbucks, going to a football game, or sitting in church. We all need people in our environments and our space. The next level is that of friendship and interaction. This level consists of people we know and interact with, such as our coworkers, family, friends, and neighbors. Most people who go to school or work outside of the home at least reach this level. However, very few venture beyond these often shallow relationships to the third level. The third and richest level of community is spiritual community. It is the leading of the Holy Spirit that sets this level of community apart (Crabb, 1999). In the power of the Holy Spirit, we celebrate and see the good in one another. We hope, dream, and grow together. Here we experience the safety of celebration, the hope of vision, the wisdom of loving discernment, and the power of touch (Crabb, 1999). However, this type of community requires brokenness and vulnerability. For this reason, spiritual community is rare. God created us to experience all three levels of community, unfortunately, very few of us ever do.
During this time of national crisis and mandated social distancing, isolation is the next critical threat. Pre crisis, the majority of people had the first and second levels of community. Again, pre crisis, most people interacted with at least a handful of people on a daily basis. Now, with social distancing, the bottom has dropped out of even the most basic level of community, which is proximity.
We must use technology to connect and engage with each other. Is it possible to engage while texting? Is it possible to engage while commenting or liking someone’s post? Maybe. However, I often struggle even with texting in group chats. I usually can’t keep up, so I opt out. And I know I’m not alone. I really believe that online face-to-face interactions will be our salvation. While we can’t meet together in the same physical space, we need to have online group gatherings. Regardless of the state of things, I need to see your face and you need to see mine.
Practicing social distancing to the extent that schools, churches, and other gatherings are canceled is absolutely the right thing to do. Our best strategy is for everyone to stay home. However, we must not lose touch with each other in the most connecting and relational ways possible. We must get creative and be intentional. Try online chatting with your group of friends or church small group. Stay in touch with your people. Get as close to face-to-face with your people as you can. We must care for our friends and neighbors, especially those who may be more vulnerable. We must work together on a community level to make sure that everyone has their needs met. Take care of yourself and those around you. Practice self-care and be smart. Don’t isolate yourself. And ask for help if you need it.
2 Critical Connecting Resources
A beautiful friend of mine (love you Laura), recently introduced me to Marco Polo. This app has been life giving. Now I can interact with my friends and family almost live on my phone. And its really easy. For now, this resource is so much better than texting. Look for it in the app store.
Zoom is a great resource for video conferencing. And it is free.
Crabb, L. (1999). The Safest Place on Earth: Where People Connect and Are Forever Changed. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group.