As we now find ourselves in a season of disruption, I believe it is increasingly important that we communicate—that we learn to talk openly about our struggles and confusion, while also sharing our joys and hopes.
Today’s cultural moment is saturated with fear and anxiety arising from the invisible threat of coronavirus. The news is filled with stories of its spread. We hang on the words of health officials, hoping that their advice will be enough to protect us, but knowing that even these experts are finding themselves in uncharted waters.
This virus is particularly insidious because it puts our needs for connection at odds with our instinct to withdraw to avoid the contagion. In our desire to maintain purity, to prevent contamination, we draw back into isolation. We now recoil from the person coughing near us, we select our social engagements carefully or shun them altogether, and we no longer shake hands or exchange embraces when our church families gather. In fact, many of us can only attend services online.
It is important to take precautions. Not only do we care about our own health, but we have families—children or grandparents, people with whom we interact who might be more susceptible to sickness. We need to consider how our actions impact them, too. But where is the line between caution and being driven by our fears? Are there precautions that protect the body but harm the soul? How do we reach out to one another when touch is what we fear? How do we maintain our social ties? How might we love our neighbor?
I find myself wrestling with these questions, wondering how we can operate in this tension when connections are both the threat and the cure. I decided that reaching out in small ways was important as we try and understand this new normal. After all, we still need community. We need people to care for us, in health and sickness. And we need to be caregivers, too. Texting ten friends, just to check on them was more rewarding than I imagined. I can’t say what, if anything, this brief interaction meant for them, but for me, it pushed away my feeling of separateness, even if only for a few minutes. At the heart of who we are is a desire to be heard, felt and known.
Please join me in making small connections, communicating in simple ways, and may we find our way forward, not in fear, but with a moving compassion.