When Social Distancing Feels Familiar

This whole thing seemed like a big joke at first. Some virus from China that kills less people than the average flu?

Whatever, what’s for dinner?

We joked about it at small group and scoffed at the media for always perpetuating fear and causing panic about the next ‘big thing’. In the middle of all the humor, my husband quietly piped up- “I mean, it sort of is a big deal. I think we should at least be aware of what’s happening”. He had read about what was happening overseas, and saw it as only a matter of time until it hit the states.

Sure enough, the virus eventually turned into more than a social conversation. Toilet paper vanished from the grocery stores and all I could think was, ‘what about the coffee?. I could be caffeinated for days but have nothing to wipe my butt with? People are FREAKING OUT. Calm down, and leave some toiletries for the rest of us.’

Not long after, my husbands grad school cancelled his trip overseas and his classes moved online for the rest of the year. We don’t even know if he’ll have a graduation ceremony. Will two years of vigorous work, sleepless nights and crazy sacrifice have an anticlimactic end?

You might know what happened next. All schools closed down indefinitely. Church gatherings and small groups came to a halt. My ministry school ended and all my classmates doing missionary work had to travel home and self quarantine. Currently, the general rule for all of Tennessee is for no more than 10 people to gather together. This isn’t panic…it’s just….wise. The coronavirus actually is kind of a big deal and we need to protect the vulnerable.

Which brings me to the word- Social Distancing.

I never heard of the term but when it was introduced to me, I immediately understood what it meant. Oh…..I can do this because I’ve done it before. Or at least, I know what it feels like.

A lot of us knows what loneliness feels like.

For a lot of us, social distancing isn’t all that novel. We’ve lived with a lonely feeling for a long time, even while sharing the earth with 7 billion other people. We are the seniors in nursing homes, the moms in isolated hospital rooms because our child is sick, and if we are being honest…we are the average young adult who doesn’t know what it means to connect with others.

For the last 4 or so years, I’ve worked hard to build social skills and I’ve learned what it means to make (and keep) a friend. I left the only community I knew and I started a brand new life. It was fun and exciting, but everybody outside of the group I grew up with acted differently, and I didn’t know how to fit in. It was easier to just stay home and self isolate…. but the feeling was suffocating and devastating- and so, I had to fight against my urge to withdraw and face my fear for true and lasting connection.

I say this because, if this social distancing doesn’t feel all that new to you, I wanted to let you know I see you. I know who you are, and I know a little bit about what you’re struggling with. You’ve never really felt known to begin with and during this period of uncertainty, you’re more worried about if there’s enough milk for you to buy at the store than if a friend will invite you over for coffee. I get it friend. I promise you aren’t weird, unless I am too.

My encouragement to the one who suffers with chronic loneliness is- you are not alone.

Believe it or not, Jesus actually wants to hang out with you. Jesus has felt all of your feelings, knows all of your tendencies and watches your every mannerism. Jesus desires to pour you that extra cup of coffee and help you sort through that endless list of emails. Jesus wants to lavish his affection on you and stir in you a deep desire to reach out and love others the same way he loves you….because the truth is, there is a LOT of lonely people out there, and he’d like to partner with you to be his hands and feet.

 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV)

This is a unique time to really sit with the Lord and to grow in quietness with him. The secret place is wide open and God is ready to dig into open heart surgeries with you. Imagine if we sat with him, allowed him to go into those dark places, fill our ‘loneliness’ holes, tear down our idols, and provoke us to good works?

If you’re a friend of mine and you are lonely, reach out. I’d love to be awkward with you on the phone and connect during this isolating time.

Love always,