by Bob Allen:
The paradox of being forced to “go it alone” while simultaneously being encouraged to retain connection with others is wearing me out.
I pine for things that feel like ancient history yet are a mere month in the rear-view. I long to celebrate, assembling as the incarnate, called out, word-defined family of God. The struggle to remain in relationship with the people I hold most dear overwhelms me. My days have become a mind-numbing cycle of checking social media in an effort to feel a part of the lives of those I cannot be near physically. I am, unfortunately, THAT guy with tech-neck, his thumb constantly flicking across the surface of his smartphone to keep up with all the posts, comments, stories, likes, and shares.
Virtual connection isn’t connection, only a facsimile. But there is a silver lining; there is something good taking place in the midst of this “age of quarantine”.
Our forced estrangement from one another points us to God’s plan for the future.
God encoded our existence through relationships: husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters; and so the disruption of relationships creates an imbalance in our lives. The physical disconnect impacts us deeply. Serving as a moment-by-moment reminder of what could and should be, our isolation, despite our interconnectivity, speaks to an off-kilter reality, both a lack and a promise of fulfillment of God’s design. Before the fall, man and woman were in perfect fellowship with God, with each other, with the earth, but that three-fold perfection crumbled as sin entered the world (Gen 3), marred beyond our ability to repair it. The need of relationships was not broken, merely their perfection.
So we live, day to day, with this vestige of something lost to sin, a defective version of the pure joy and peace God conceived for mankind to experience. But this corrupted relational truth does not warp our reaction: we still crave approval, support, and companionship. So, in our isolation, we reflexively reach out for one another. We hunger for kinship. We dedicate our hearts and souls to finding acceptance, feeling that once we have met “our people”, we can fully reveal ourselves, take down our facades, and rest.
Because we know such a repose exists.
Broken relationships are all we’ve ever known, and if these imperfect connections mean so much to us, greater yet is the promise of the days to come. To the Corinthians, Paul writes, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12) We catch glimpses of heaven in our relationships through our transparency with those closest to us, those we allow to see more of us than others. But a day lurks on the horizon when we will not be imperfectly known, but perfectly; not to some degree, but to the nth degree. Our incomplete fellowship in the moment foreshadows a complete fellowship in the future. We will be fully known and will experience a real and lasting togetherness with God and other believers for eternity.
I cannot help but believe God providentially brought this period of forced solitude to rekindle a thirst and desire for the inseparable, unending intimacy he intends to restore in the age to come.