So here we are. At least, there you are and here I am. Due to COVID19 we are all washing our hands furiously and resorting to the fist bump or worst…the elbow bump. I don’t know, maybe the air high five is worst. It doesn’t matter. The fact remains, we have been advised to keep our distance from one another. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe we should listen to medical professionals and the CDC when it comes to these matters and do our best to stay safe and stop the spread of the coronavirus. We must take this threat seriously and do everything within our power to make sure our loved ones stay healthy. Out of consideration for one another, let’s do our best to take the recommendations of our doctors and disease specialists to heart.
Now that I’ve said that, I want to make an observation. At the height of divisiveness in our world and more specifically, our country, this seems like the next logical step. I’m not saying that this is all an elaborate ruse to keep us at odds with one another, don’t misunderstand me. I am saying that because of our lack of communication with one another and our lack of trust, it makes sense that at some point we would all be hunkered down in our own separate homes and be fearful to come into physical contact with each other.
I don’t believe that this level of isolation and disconnectedness happens over night. This is the crescendo to decades of division, animosity and fear that have been stored up. The truth is, we’ve been socially distancing ourselves from each other for a long time. Anytime that we choose fear or hate instead of choosing love, we create distance. When we focus on our own needs over and above our neighbor’s, we are pushing them away from us and creating a relational void.
Because this relational gap is such an issue, how can we keep from becoming more “socially distant” from one another even while we are supposed to be practicing social distancing?
Here are a few ways to remain socially connected while practicing social distancing.
I don’t know about you, but I am not a medical professional. Don’t pretend that you know more than you actually do. Phrases like “this will all blow over in a few weeks and we’ll be fine” or “this is a hoax” are not helpful to the people around us. It is especially not helpful to those who may have the virus or who have been legitimately diagnosed with it. I know that we are all accustomed to saying things like “fake news” or “that person is an idiot…what do they know!?” but now is the time to stop doing that.
You cannot assign motives to people unless you know for a fact what their motivation is. God gave us all brains and discernment. It will cost you nothing to listen to people and take that information into account. You don’t have to accept it blindly, just take it into consideration. Let’s put some of our differences aside and return to an old way of thinking. We may disagree on political grounds but let’s come to a place where we really want the best for one another. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a bad place to start. Speaking of which…
My next door neighbor, who is a far better neighbor than I am, walked over to Jenn and I as we were working out in the yard. She shared some information about things that she knew about the current state of the coronavirus and we did the same. She then told us that she would be going to the store and asked us if she could pick up anything for us. That is the perfect example of someone who is looking after their literal neighbor just as much as they are looking out for their own family.
Take this time to start a new way of life. Start thinking of your literal neighbors as well as your virtual neighbors. Love them the way that you would love yourself (Mark 12:30-31). I know, we are supposed to be “socially distancing” ourselves from people. Again, take the medical professionals word for it and do that. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to be relationally distant from people. Find new ways to love your neighbors both physically near and virtually near.
Also take time to check in on people who are particularly vulnerable: the elderly. Make a phone call to someone who may not have close relatives or anyone checking in on them. Check in with family and friends. Show your love through concern for them and by offering to help in a tangible way. Maybe it is to make a trip to the grocery store or have a conversation with them over the phone. Do your social distancing up close.
Listen to me for a second. Stop hoarding toilet paper. Stop it. The rest of us are going to have to resort to using old t-shirts if you don’t. You don’t need a year’s supply of meat frozen in your outdoor fridge. If you really want to love your neighbor well, take them into consideration. If you hoard you hurt. You can tell yourself that you are preparing for your family but in reality you are not setting a good example for them. No amount of hoarding will keep you prepared for scarcity. It will last you just a little bit longer than everybody else and that’s it!
If we are people of faith, that means we prepare and then we trust God with the future.
Instead of boarding up your house and preparing to Rick Grimes this whole thing (Walking Dead Reference), why don’t you connect with the people in your house. Play some board games, pray together or talk about how they are feeling right now. Assure them that God draws near to us during difficult times. He tells us over and over again to “be strong and courageous” and to “fear not." Sure, we may be in for some difficult times but discernment and faith will get us through it!
Connect with some old friends that you haven’t heard from in a while. Finish those books you’ve been saying you were going to read. Turn off the *%$!@ news for a while and do some writing or create some art. Take advantage of the slower pace and get your mind right! Focus on reading through one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Observe how Jesus handles adversity and do likewise.
Talk to your family and friends about what you are learning and how your faith impacts you during these times. Draw closer in your relationship with God and with people.
In short, follow the directives of our medical professionals and keep your distance physically but don’t stay so physically distant that you have no relational connections with people.
Do your social distancing up close.
Matt Snellings is the Community Life Pastor at CIBOLOCREEK. This article was originally found on her blog, msnellings.com.