The Impact of Social Distancing
I was created for community. I find God in people.
Maybe you don’t. Maybe you find God in the silence. Maybe you need quiet and peace; nature and serenity in order to commune with God. Maybe you’re the kind of person who finds God in the stillness of the night sky, or in the colors of the sunrise or in the melodies of music.
I find God in people. We are his image-bearers, so this shouldn’t be the shock that it is. We were created in His image, to do His work, to be His representation here in creation. And yet, the more I realize that I find the Lord most in people, the more shocked I have been.
You see, this is not a typical Christian-ese thing. We aren’t taught that we will discover God in people. In fact, that is something we’re discouraged from doing. We’re told that people will let you down- and that’s true. We’re told people are fallible and sinful…also true.
Shelter in place. Quarantine. Covid-19. Social Distancing. These things have taken away one of my lifelines, and as I have reflected upon why this has been so difficult for me, I have realized a truth about myself. It’s because I find God in people. So when you take PEOPLE away from me, it is much more difficult for me to commune with God. I feel further from the Lord because I am further removed from his image-bearers.
A Story full of People
When I look back on my journey of faith, it is FULL of people who loved unconditionally. It is full of experiences with PEOPLE who reflected God back to me. People taught me about God’s love. Silence didn’t do that. The still night sky, reflective periods at sunrise, and even sweet moments of worship music did not do that for me. People did.
When I was 15 years old and I accepted Christ for the first time, I didn’t do so after quietly contemplating atonement. I wasn’t seeking forgiveness as much as I was seeking acceptance, love and community. PEOPLE demonstrated that to me. A friend, inviting me to a concert. A band, welcoming me in as if I was one of their own. A community of believers taught me what love looked like, what unconditional acceptance looked like, and I learned about God through them. People. Human beings. Teenagers, even.
When I experienced abuse later that year, it was a person who showed up at that house to pick me up and take me to a safe place. God was at work, surely, but he was working through that young friend to remind that I was worthy of being rescued.
The summer after I graduated from High School, I experienced depression and anxiety in a very real and profound way. It was a person, a young man, who showed up at my home repeatedly. In that period of time, stillness, silence, quiet, the dark night sky, the colors of the sunrise- these things were my enemy. These things did not draw me closer to the Lord. They did not rescue me. They did not save. They were not healing. Do you know what was? That young man, who never let me feel alone. That young man, who pulled me out of isolation, and when I couldn’t bear to go, sat with me in my brokenness. In those moments, God was present for me. He never left me, He never abandoned me. He showed up through a person. He loved me tangibly, as this person loved me tangibly. That is what my love language needed, and He created me. He knows, more than anyone else, how to love me best.
When I went through a divorce and my best friend, who is an atheist/agnostic, showed up for me and never left my side, I experienced God’s love for me through her. When she knows me, my thoughts and my motives even better than I do…that’s God too. God’s image bleeds through her, even when she doesn’t claim His name. God gave me her.
When my daughter, June, died in a late missed miscarriage and my people rallied around me, that was God showing up for me. When I took my broken heart to the alter and felt a soft hand on my shoulder…yes. It was a person. A young woman who has become a dear friend… But it was also God. Because God is in people. When she touched me, I saw and experienced God’s love for me. His heart beat in time with mine and He was distraught at my pain. I saw that reflected back at me through her.
You see, these were people supporting me. I won’t discount that. Every person represented in these paragraphs is incredible. They are complicated, imperfect, fallible people whom I dearly love. But God was in them. God was working through them, whether they realized it or not because God breathed himself into us, as humankind, back at the dawn of creation. We are his. We bear his image. He dwells within us. Within people.
A Significant Impact
That is why, when a crisis strikes and people are taken away from me, I feel further removed from God. This is how God created me- to see His image reflected in people. In this moment in history, I cannot have these experiences. At this point in time, I have the stillness of the night sky, the beauty of the sunrise every morning and melodies of worship music. I can find silence and stillness, if I look hard enough, although that is not as easy in a household of seven. I have God’s Word, which I treasure. I thank the Lord for things like Social Media, Zoom, FaceTime and Marco Polo, which give me some hint of interaction with God’s image bearers.
But I don’t have people. Technology gives a cheap imitation when compared to the beauty and majesty of God’s creation- of us, of people, of the power and impact of the image bearers of God.
There is light, though. Today, our friends parked their car in front of our home to pray over us. This is the second time we’ve had friends do this for us during the shelter in place order. An Instagram girl-vent session led to a donation to our nonprofit, because it, “felt like a God wink.” I am seeing the strength of our team at the Pregnancy Resource Center, as they step up and do incredible things and make adjustments to keep serving while also keeping our community safe. I am so impressed by these people I get to serve with.
I long for the days when we can reach out to one another. Where we can invite one another in and rescue each other, like those teenagers did for me. I am eagerly anticipating a day when we can we can hold our loved ones who are broken. We will sit, side by side, wrapped up in each other, present in one another’s brokenness, the way that young man was for me when I first battled depression and anxiety.
I look forward to rallying around people. Together. Arm in Arm. Hand in hand. The way my people rallied around me when June died.
I am hopefully believing in a day when I can lay my hand on the broken-hearted again, and allow God’s face to be reflected in mine. When someone can once again see the Lord’s love reflected in my eyes, and feel his presence in my touch, like I experienced at the alter years ago…that will be a beautiful day, indeed.
Until then, Friends, We’re all in this together.