Why Does Social Distancing Make My Soul Ache?
APRIL 14, 2020
On Friday morning, March 6th, we decided to postpone our traditional Sunday worship gathering at Redemption Church, following the recommendations of the CDC.
I had some friends from around the country reach out and ask “Really? Do you really think that’s necessary?” I felt challenged by religious tradition on the one hand and listening to the CDC on the other. I texted one of our pastors who is a medical doctor and asked his opinion. He suggested that we listen to the CDC. So, that’s what we did. We didn’t see this as a lack of faith in God. It was merely heeding the wisdom of those who are empowered to lead. My goodness, we had no idea just how serious all of this was to become!
That first Sunday morning, I looked over at Jana and said,
“My soul hurts. I so wish I could be on at the front steps of the church to hug everyone and welcome them to worship. I’ve stood on those steps every Sunday for four years.”
That ache hasn’t subsided, and I don’t suspect that it will any time soon. So many members of our church have reached out expressing the same thing. That same need to connect in person. This need to be together caused me to do some thinking. Why do we feel it so deeply?
From a theological perspective, our answer lies in the fact that we human beings are made in the image of our Triune God. You see, God exists in and as a community in perfect harmony, love, and mutual indwelling. This is known as “perichoresis.”
As human beings, we are far more than physical; we are profoundly relational and deeply spiritual. Social distancing places a tremendous strain on our souls.
In the opening scenes of Scripture, we see so many beautiful things.
“Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
— Genesis 2:7
This moment is beautiful because it captures God delicately, gently, intentionally, carefully creating Adam. This is not a blacksmith covered in soot, banging away by fire in a dark shop. Instead, it feels more like Chihuly sculpting glass.
In the very beginning, there was no social distancing between God and Adam. Instead, they’re face to face. While they were nose to nose, God still saw his work as incomplete. Someone was missing. This is not because God was insufficient to meet Adam’s needs. God simply wasn’t quite finished with creating beings in his image. So God made Eve and brought her to Adam; there was no social distancing between any of them. God, Adam, and Eve.
Throughout the first and second testaments, we see God’s people coming together to worship him (Exodus 7:16, for example). This is because our religion is not a singular, privatized relationship that we do in our heads between ourselves alone. Rather, our faith is deeply communal. In the incarnation, we see Jesus bless creation. In the church, there is a repeated emphasis on coming together (1 Cor. 11:23-26′; Heb. 10:25; Col. 2:1). Even the Apostle John expressed his discontent of using technology as a means of communicating with the saints. He writes
“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
— 2 John 1:12
This isn’t because there is anything evil about pen and paper or in our case, phones and computers. John simply knew that technology, though extremely helpful, simply cannot compete with the joy that is experienced when the saints join together in the worship of the Trinity.
That’s why it hurts. In the meantime, we will not despise technology. FaceTime, Zoom, and prerecorded sermons are not what we’re used to nor is it ideal. Yet, it is what we have to work with in the meantime and so we will practice gratitude alongside and social distancing at the same time. I love you, Redemption.