Wow. What a word for such a time. This week has been a very heavy week in our community in more ways than the COVID-19 pandemic. Tragedy struck the school community where I work and my boys attend. Close friends are dealing with major health issues. COVID-19 concerns escalate by the day (did I mention I work at a school?) Political battles are raging. The list goes on and on, right? For all of us.
Sitting in church just a couple of weeks ago, our worship leader made a joke and asked people to fist bump versus shake hands. That’s when something struck me hard. What is this world going to look like when everything on the outside is pushing us away from each other? After all, we’re designed by God to be in community. A consequence we find in Genesis of being created in God’s image is that we are designed for relationship with God and with one another. There are dozens of scriptures that talk about the importance of relationship. We can even go all of the way back to Genesis 2:18, when God came to Adam and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” So God made a helper suitable for him. Jesus is not only the greatest model of a friend, but He also commanded others to walk in community with one another.
The extrovert in me was starting to get a little sad. This is not living how God intended. I know God goes before us, and victory is already His, but I was still getting a little worried about this impending “separation”. I never could have even begun to wrap my mind around what would ensue the next two weeks.
And here we are… two weeks later, during a time when each day is calling us to ‘isolate’ and maintain ‘social distancing’ more and more. However, in a twisted turn of events, I believe we are experiencing more unity as a community and as a country than we ever have before. And this is just the beginning.
My blog post on Unity was very different a little over a week ago. I was going to write about how our Heavenly Father created us to be in relationships, to have deep friendships, and to thrive in community. I was going to talk about the importance of staying connected in a world that is good at keeping us apart. I was going to share how important it is to stay rooted in the fact that we are each a unique and important part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27-31), and that together we are stronger (Ecclesiastes 4:12). I was going to talk about how close relationships allow for great times together, but they also offer space and understanding for times of grief, suffering, and tears. I was going to talk about how many of us feel too full already to keep up with the friends we have, but love is indeed an active process and a commitment to which we should stick, and as Christ-followers we should initiate vulnerability and depth in the relationships we have. That’s one of the greatest ways that we will grow and experience God. I was going to talk about the importance of community when sometimes, in times of pain, we want nothing more than to isolate ourselves, and how Galatians 6:2 reminds us to “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
And then I got schooled.
In John 15:12-13, Jesus says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Living in Ohio, where the COVID-19 crisis has quickly been escalating, I am nearly overwhelmed by what I have seen in even the last 48 hours. We have witnessed:
- Neighbors reaching out to neighbors for help with grocery trips, lending needed items (Toilet Paper, anyone?), and simple encouragement
- More scripture shared across social media than ever before
- Links to church services share all over social media and broadcast media
- Teachers reaching out, offering help to parents feeling less than comfortable with remote learning and homeschooling
- Families pulling together power packs and meals for districts who have students with food insecurity
- Countless resources for physical and emotional health being shared
- Businesses prioritizing their employees (and in some cases customers) over profits
- Leadership teams unifying and working tirelessly for preparations of the unknown
And the list goes on.
As each new piece of uncertain news unfolds, encouragement also unfolds, and takes over the airways. I don’t know about you, you but I am welcoming that encouragement and hope and pray it drowns out the discouragement and fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
If ever there was a time we’re seeing this verse in action, it’s now. God is teaching us to love in deeper ways, which will transform our character as we strive to look more and more like Jesus. Consider that God is also pursuing the people around us, and He pursues them through us. Acts 17:27 says, “God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.”
God put people in our lives to support us in our pursuit of Him. Can you look around and recognize these people? I believe God is making more and more of them available to one another through this crisis. And that is the hope I am grasping onto in this temporary, but challenging, time.
Lord, only You know what the coming days and weeks will bring. We are grateful that You go before us in all of it, and that you will never leave or forsake us. Help us to keep our eyes focused on You and open to the needs of our community and families. Help us to remain vigilant and hopeful. For we know that this is temporary to everlasting life we have with you, our Creator. In Jesus’ name, Amen.