As this exercise in sequestering ourselves and social distancing continues, it’s fascinating to make observations about how others are dealing with it all as well as make observations about how I am dealing with it. Some days are diamonds, others, not so much.
Some of us just come to a certain point and then we shut down. Others of us may feel as if we’ve hit our stride, that we were made for this kind of isolation. I’ve always said that I can tolerate a lot when I know that there will be an end to it, the problem becomes when that end is elusive or it keeps changing.
Among the most confounding things about this virus is the sheer unknown nature of it. “Experts” are on the media regularly sharing their views, but those views don’t seem to hold up very well as twenty four hours later (or less) an opposite and equal viewpoint may be shared. It seems exponentially more frustrating than parenting, every time you think you’ve got a handle on things and know what to expect, a curveball is thrown that puts you once again at the mercy of factors that are out of your own control.
During this time, I’ve watched my introverted teenager become a virtual social chair. He’s adapted well with his small friend group to set up virtual weekly movie nights. The kid who I’ve worried about regarding his social habits seems to be adapting like a boss to a situation that has the rest of us cowering and crying, “Uncle.”
One thing that has seemed to stand out to me through all of this is our hunger for contact outside of our computer, tablet, and smart phone screens. Virtual connection can only last so long before we feel like it pales in comparison to the real thing. As great as our HD or 4K technology is, it doesn’t offer up to us the flesh and blood humanness of what we offer each other when we stand face to face, hearing each other’s breath and staring into each other’s eyes.
We need each other, and while we may go through periods when we try to convince ourselves to the contrary, those periods are unsustainable. We were made for community, we were made for contact, we were made for touch, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. To remain untouched is to feel unloved.
You may have heard countless stories of orphans in far off countries who were never picked up as babies only to experience significant emotional issues later in childhood and life. We may think that we’re stronger now, no longer babies or children, no longer helpless, able to stand strong on our own, but there is no denying our need for contact.
Encouragement can only go so far when it happens virtually. I’d love to think that my effectiveness is just as strong on a screen as it is in person, but if I truly thought that, I would be wrong. Community cries out for community. There’s a reason why the writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews wrote not to forsake the assembling of yourselves, the gathering together of our communities.
While I am not calling for a casting off of the physical restraints that now stand in place for our protection and the protection of the most vulnerable among us, I do know that something has to give.
Maybe you’ve seen one of the latest emojis that Facebook has offered us, the “virtual hug.” It’s a poor substitute for the real thing, but it seems that’s all we have right now. So we press on, longing for touch, longing to connect, and waiting for the day when it will be safe once again to do so.