Seeking Community in a Moment of Isolation
If I’m honest with you, at first response I was kinda looking forward to all the cultural restrictions that have taken effect in the COVID-19 pandemic. The outcome of all our scheduled events being cancelled, the call to stay home, and the opportunity to play my part in not spreading the virus by watching movies on my couch, it’s kind of the dream for an introvert like me!
But as soon as day 2 or 3 passed, the things that seemed promising were quite empty. There was that nervous feeling settling into my stomach. Things seemed stuck, something was missing, what was it? I was missing all the small stuff. The daily groggy head-nod I give the desk check-in employee at my gym. The frustration of the car in front of me, not making the light. The small talk of running into someone at the grocery store. The looking forward to getting a night out with close friends. The weekly moment where our community group comes into our house. The hugs and handshakes of a Sunday morning. I missed community.
What this time of being stuck at home is doing to me is making the times of community all the more appealing. The saying goes, ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’, well, social distancing makes the community gatherings seem all the more important.
I think that’s one beautiful thing that I’m celebrating during this odd period of life we are in, it’s unveiling the emptiness of the things that we so often desire. Maybe you aren’t exactly like me but I think you know what I’m talking about. That little joyful feeling that comes when you get a text that says, ‘we are going to cancel tonight.’ The happiness of having a weekend where you have nothing going on. The ability to sit on your couch and watch whatever you want. Behind these feelings is a desire, a desire to isolate ourselves, to satisfy our lives through a night of binging that Tiger show on Netflix, to remove ourselves from obligations because staying home sounds more appealing. When your dream to have a clear and empty schedule becomes a reality, everything looks different, we realize, wait…we actually had it really good before this.
That’s the beauty I’ve seen, isolation is creating a yearning for community. Since the mandate to stay home has taken place I have seen community breaking out in such creative ways. There are the Christmas lights that have gone up around my neighborhood, in an effort to try to bring about some joyful cheer. The sidewalk chalk messages that say, “Keep Going”, “Spread some Joy”. The little cards or acts of kindness my family has received. The other day as we were walking we say a birth announcement on a house, “It’s a boy!” and I wanted to yell “Congrats” out loud for my neighbor who I’ve never met nor seen before.
It’s when you realize what you’ve lost, and that we’ve all lost it at the same time, that it makes community seem all the more vital. In the last two weeks I’ve gotten more texts, phone calls, zoom/google hangouts, and check-ins then any other time in my life, because we all miss it, we miss community!
I’ve been reading a section of the Psalms a lot during this time, they are called the Psalms of Ascent. Psalm 120–134 is a songbook, a collection of songs that the Israelites sang on their way up to the Temple. I’ve been reading/praying them so much because I think they are so reflective of the time we are in. A journey we are taking on our own, but a journey that is also being taken by a whole lot of other people. A communal path that we take on our own.
Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
I want to dwell in unity, even if we are apart. So for the next few weeks I’m going to post (somewhat) daily, a short reflection on one of these Psalms. It’s a small effort to say, hey we are apart, but let’s be together. It’s a small effort but I hope it helps.
I still love some nights on the couch, and man that Tiger show on Netflix is bonkers, but I really miss my community, can’t wait to greet one another with hugs and handshakes again!