Life as we know it has irrevocably changed. It will never be “normal” again. Many of us have experienced irreplaceable shifts and traumatic turns since the world shut down in the early part of 2020. Since then, we’ve been on a collective swing to move back to “normal,” even when we don’t openly admit it.
School, work, faith gatherings, social get-togethers, and our home life have all been affected by an unpredictable, ever-morphing, minuscule virus that has transformed life as we know it. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a rise in domestic violence, suicide, loneliness, entitled behavior, and overworking. However, we’ve also seen a movement initiated by frontline workers and first responders to demand better treatment, pay, advocacy, and respect, a better reckoning of racial injustices, and a (somewhat) greater accountability when it comes to climate change… So some good with the bad.
Despite all this, there’s something that we haven’t been addressing enough, something I think ties into the root of everything we’re experiencing as a global unit: the magnitude and impact of the loss of community.
Our faith communities, social circles, work friends, and grocery store acquaintances have disappeared beyond masks we wear for the protection of ourselves and others, replaced by social distancing and fear of contamination. Although many have returned back to work and school, given current restrictions-loneliness and separation still prevail. What is this doing to us? How are we being affected?
I’ve noticed the strain of this isolation in both singles and those with families and/or partners. The inability to effectively and/or consistently connect has weighed us down in our individual silos. We feel more alone than ever. So where does faith play into this? How does God, who promised to never leave or forsake us, meet us in these lonely days?
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24,25 NIV
If you’re like me and your church has yet to reopen due to COVID safety protocols, your best connection to any faith community is through your screen. However, even the most faithful among us, get Zoom fatigue. Virtual baby showers, weddings, and birthday celebrations just don’t replace the real thing. Even in the instances of limited in-person get togethers, fear and the “what if” factor can affect one’s mood and comfort level. How can you remain connected to your communities (friends, faith, family, etc.) while remaining safe in these unprecedented times?
Balance. Transparency. Patience.
Let’s dig into those a bit.
Balance. Life won’t ever be the same again, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to something negative. Adjust to the changing times, while still allowing room for meaningful encounters and safe spaces. This may mean that you might not be able to attend (or host) the gatherings you’re known for in your circle, but you can spread them out into smaller, more intimate settings that still allow room for connection, while being mindful of what it takes to remain safe. Be creative in feeding your soul, “not giving up meeting together,” but inventive in what exactly that looks like. Go outside. Take a walk. Go for a run. Make your heart race from something other than anxiety and worry.
Transparency. Be real about where you are and what you need. Too often, in an effort to accommodate for others, we’re not honest about our own wants and needs for community, hugs, or just a listening ear. We’re so used to being the “strong” friend/spouse/family member that we forget that weakness is evidence of owning your vulnerable truth. Trust your community to handle the weight of your truth. Seek God, understanding that might be as simple as saying, “Fix it Jesus.” Your conversations with God might be a bit more colorful these days, and that’s ok! He knows what you’re feeling anyway. Let it out. Everything else has changed around us, your walk with God may just as surely have been affected. Acknowledge that and be honest on the journey back to or with Him. It doesn’t have to be a long, convoluted prayer that uses words/phrases you borrowed from a sermon or inspirational post on social media. Be you. Journal. Dance it out. Cry. Whatever it takes to recognize where you are and what you need.
Patience. Don’t be so hard on yourself or others. Extend the same measure of grace you want covering you. These are different and trying times. Life has hit us in ways we may not fully understand for years to come. Instead of asking yourself, “how could I have ended up here?” Accept the journey you’re on and submit to the process you’ve been running from all along, and that is, change. Surrender to the unknown. Create space for raw emotions to address the unwanted and unpredictable. Have real talks with God. Don’t mince your words or hold back. For many of us, the lack of an in-person faith community has affected us in more ways than one. My former pastor used to say, “Sundays in church are the only days some people receive a safe hug.” His words weigh heavily during these days.
I hope something in this entry resonated with you. I hope you know you are not alone, even if it feels like it. I too, have found myself to be struggling with the loss of community and consistency. I remembered my virtual community and decided to reignite what we had here, with the hopes of letting even one beautiful soul know that God remembers you, even in your most forgotten days.