As has been the case for all of us, the pandemic has been isolating for me. It has kept me away from my church family; it has kept me away from gathering around the table with friends and family; it has kept me away from building new, authentic relationships with those I come across in my neighborhood or schools.
Reclusive by nature, I have sunk more and more into this way of being. Pre-pandemic, the isolation reinvigorated me to live the life I was called to in work and relationships, but during the pandemic, this isolation didn’t always serve me in this way. It was oftentimes a devolution of spirit instead of a revolution of spirit.
Newly vaccinated and coupled with the hope spring iliciits in its blooming flowers and lengthening sunshine, I’m finally beginning to realize that what occurred over the past year will not always be. Nevertheless, the effects of the pandemic have taken a toll. What scant social skills I once had have grown faint, what fruitful life I once had has been sacrificed at the altar of a disease that killed over 500,000 Americans, what life in Christ I had has been altered by a virtual church and socially distanced community.
And that is ok. This has been the plight of all our lives.
I find myself asking, though, as I hope with trepidation for the opening of our common life, “What now? How do I jump back into my life — obviously not as I once was but as I am called to be?”
- I need to actively pursue community — in flesh and blood. Yes, this community is one that is outside the church, in the relationships I’ve cultivated throughout my many years in Dallas. But more importantly, I need to belong to the life of the church and the people who populate the community of Restoration who uniquely point me to the love and grace of Jesus. For me, this is leaning into my Link Group and attending our Spring Retreat. By belonging to the people of God, I am also deeply aware that I belong to Christ — the one who sustains and gives me life. This community is the tangible reminder of my belovedness.
- The pandemic version of being like Jesus was to love our neighbor by protecting the vulnerable amongst us with masks, staying 6 feet away from each other, and as often as possible, abstaining from being physically present with others. But now, as things begin to slowly open up, I’m reminded that while the pandemic brought a new form of brokenness into the world, the devil’s greatest hits still played even though we weren’t all able to actively address them. Poverty, genocide, oppression of the marginalized, etc. still beats its awful tune in our world.
Yesterday, I walked into the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in downtown Dallas to a sea of 2300 green cots with teenage boys filling each and every one of them under the fluorescent lights of a home not meant to house people. These boys, like the ones in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and in our own homes, are aged 12-17, and have fled gangs and drug cartels — alone — in search of safety and a life of dignity.
Without a working knowledge of Spanish, I simply played soccer and basketball with them, worked on puzzles, smiled big through my mask to try to show my love for them, served and prayed for them on the food line, and provided a gentle touch on the shoulder or an excited shove after they scored a basket after many missed shots (Central American boys are not too familiar with basketball!).
As I have hunkered down over the last year as an act of love, that love that graciously sustained me in the difficult months needs to be unleashed in the world — in tangible acts of generosity and in the sharing of a Story that transforms all of reality. I forget that, by the grace of God, what I have in possession is the pearl of greatest price, and after a year of my own struggles and isolation, this pearl still shines and needs to be given to those who are in darkness.
I praise God the world is working its way back to some sense of normalcy, and I pray that he meets me, meets us, in this unfamiliar transition to the common. I pray we see this as an opportunity of rebirth, to hold tight to the hope of Jesus that sustained us (even during the times it felt like it didn’t) and seek this hope in the community of God. Then, through this miraculous gift of life God graciously provides us, I pray we are empowered to jump back into the mess of the world to join God in the restoration of all things.