In the Creation account, the Lord made Adam a right-hand (wo)man because "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Gen 2:18)
In my socially-distanced conversations with many, several words are often voiced.
In the last two reflections, we've considered all except Isolated and Lonely. During this time of Stay at Home and Safer at Home, it may be that the greatest suffering for many has been isolation and loneliness. For the sake of our health, and the health of others, we are hunkered down and outside life is a grinding halt for many of us. We are isolated from the Covid virus and from the people and places that we love.
Isolation and quarantine are a means to seek to contain and control the spread of a dangerous disease. And, according to health officials, it has been working. But isolation is also a cruel thing. It can play with our minds. It makes us doubt who we are and what we know to be true. It invites us to put self-destructive thoughts on repeat and to lose our bearings. We can forget that God has been faithful. We may even wonder if He has forgotten us. Isolation is one of the cruel weapons of the Enemy of our souls.
We've seen two kinds of isolation that seem to me to be among the most cruel. I have a dear friend suffering with Parkinson's disease and living in a senior care facility who turned 81 last weekend. Her friends came to her nursing home window and sang happy birthday. A blessed respite from her hours of lonely isolation. I'm thankful for these friends who could go.
Second, the stories of Covid patients dying without the family and friends who love them break my heart. I am thankful beyond measure for the chaplains, nurses and doctors who step into this gap and minister love and blessing to these dying ones. No one should die alone!
I'm saddened for the high school seniors who can't celebrate graduation with their friends. For the children who aren't meeting their BFFs on the playground. For the moms of young ones who can't have coffee to depressurize the stressful moments of 24/7 duty.
Human beings have been created for community, for relationship with God and with others. Being isolated from others creates a grievous void within us. One single friend told me that she misses the physical touch of a child's hug. Just two weeks into our Stay at Home orders, my granddaughter asked her mother if she could hug me yet. Whatever the age, forbidden physical touch has increased isolation and loneliness.
This is hard to write and hard to read. But there are two sources of community that respond well to the cruelty of isolation and loneliness.
First, God invites us to deeply grieve these hard experiences with Him.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8
Don't believe the Enemy's isolation lies that say God doesn't hear you or doesn't care. It's not true. God hears. God cares. In Christ, God shares the pain of isolation and loneliness. In the community of the Triune, God the Spirit is more present to you than you are to yourself.
Second, scripture tells us to cancel the cruelty of isolation by being willing "to weep with those who weep" (Rom 12:15) — even if this grief must be shared from a distance. Hiding our sorrow from others, ignoring this sorrow, or distracting ourselves from it, aren't answers to loneliness and sorrow. We are instructed to "Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2).
Who do you know who is isolated and lonely?
Who do you know who is walking through these lonely experiences?
Call them. Write them. Zoom with them.
If you are feeling the pain of isolation and loneliness, reach out. Tell someone. Call. Write. Zoom. Invite others to enter your story.
Merciful Father, minister to your beloved people in this time of separation. In the lonely times, bring your tangible presence. In the isolated hours when the Enemy whispers cruel lies, give Christ-courage to weary souls. Prompt them to pick up the phone! Remind us that we are alone together! In Jesus we pray. Amen
It's early-May and, in Colorado, life is slowly opening up. Social distancing and face masks won't be going away any time soon though. They are still "the law." And the virus will continue to be the world's unseen foe until a vaccine becomes a reality.
In my socially-distanced conversations with many, I often hear several words.
Last time, I wrote about Alone and Solitude. But what about the word Quarantined?
Personal freedom has defined America since the beginning. Freedom of speech and freedom to gather are in the core of our national identity. We instinctively push against confinement. But for the sake of our health, and the health of others, we are hunkered down and outside life is a grinding halt for many of us. Church is off-limits. Playgrounds and the gym hold unseen dangers. When we finally get to the barber shop or salon, a simple, desperately desired haircut will be "managed" from beginning to end.
We are quarantined and separated from the people, places and things that have defined our daily lives. We are submitted to our leaders, governmental and ecclesial, who say, "This is important." But like a child in the midst of a temper tantrum, many of us may be "sitting down on the outside but standing up on the inside." (We even see some who refuse to "sit down" altogether.)
Surrender and submission are two words that sit at odds to the ideology of personal freedom. Our faith in God, however, is modeled after the One who surrendered all.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 6:39)
Jesus surrendered his life and his death because God's will was his highest priority. Jesus trusted the Father's wisdom and plan for our salvation. It had to be this way. However, I often hear people say that they can trust God, but they can't trust people. I get it. People can wound and deal cruelly. Still, the Word is filled with instructions to submit to others.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1Pet 2:13-17
Even though submitting goes against the grain, we are called to do it. Peter tells us to submit to human authorities and to submit to God. "For how long?", we ask. Understandable question. But maybe, the wrong question. Instead, "Lord, will you help me to surrender to you as a way of life?" Even when the waiting is long, we can trust the Father, like Jesus, in our life and our death.
Many of us are getting weary of Stay at Home and Safer at Home. Even introverts enjoy going to the library and coffee shop. But for the sake of our health, and the health of others, we are hunkered down and outside life is a grinding halt for many of us.
It's early-May and, in Colorado, life is slowly opening up. Social distancing and face masks won't be going away any time soon though. And the virus will continue to be the world's unseen foe until a vaccine becomes a reality.
In my socially-distanced conversations with many, several words are often voiced.
Let's consider these in a three part reflection. First: Alone. Solitude.
People are admitting that they've had enough alone-time. Solitude is a sacred space where the soul meets God's loving presence. However, if we're not sure that God is, in fact, loving and good, then solitude seems dangerous!
If God is disappointed in me, and if I'm disappointed in myself, then I avoid being alone with God and being alone with myself. I heard one person say, "I don't like being with myself these days." Forced solitude has brought her to seeking obsessive distraction.
Solitude is a formative place because it gives God’s Spirit time and space to do deep work. When no one is there to watch, judge and interpret what we say, the Spirit often brings us face to face with hidden motives and compulsions. The world of recognition, achievement and applause disappears, and we stand squarely before God without props. . . . [W]e need solitude if we intend to unmask the false self and its important-looking image. Alone, without distractions, we put ourselves in a place where God can reveal things to us that we might not notice in the normal preoccupations of life. Solitude opens a space where we can bring our empty and compulsive selves to God.
Just before his last week among his disciples, Jesus stood at the entrance of Jerusalem and grieved, saying, "Jerusalem, . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Mt 23:37, Lk 13:34)
In this Covid-time (and in every time), I believe that Jesus wants to lovingly gather his beloveds under his sheltering wings. He wants to show us things that we couldn't see when we felt free to distract ourselves from his gaze. He is inviting us to know Him, and to know ourselves, truly. When we are alone, we have space to hear his gracious invitation.
Are you resisting this time of solitude?
Turn away from distraction. Lift up your gaze. Take courage. Gaze upon the One who is gazing at you.
 Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, 112-113.