Resist the Siren Call of Isolation
Updated: May 16, 2021
We feel it, don’t we? The somewhat “novelty” period of quarantine-life has certainly faded. In the spring, we had the summer to look forward to. The hope of chairs pulled around a fire pit, barbecues and children playing on the swings, swimming in pools and fresh air and sunshine seemed to hang like a carrot for those who were eager to meet again. Outdoor living and gathering held a glimmer of hope to abate any concerns.
With the recent escalation of some local areas to “Orange Zone” and with winter on the horizon, I admit even my own introverted-heart is feeling the pangs of separation from the general population. I recently tweeted a video that showed a crowded city street, music rising from a full choir and orchestra, and a scene that is distinctly pre-Covid. I miss the world we used to have. I miss crowds. I miss busy Sunday mornings and I miss my family. Not just my flesh and blood, but the family that I’ll spend all of eternity with. You, my sister. You, my brother. The family that is bound together by the blood of Christ. We used to sing and lift our voices to the rafters. We’d spend Christmas Eve shoulder to shoulder, singing Silent Night as our excited children stirred in their seats. We’d share dinners in our homes, moving the couches to make more room for more faces.
This year feels hollowed out and I’m convinced we actually need each other now more than ever.
So how do we do this? When there are mixed opinions, philosophies, and even restrictions, how do we not just throw in the towel and give up until spring is on the horizon again? If we are going to follow Christ, we must love his bride, his church, which includes us, in all of our sin, brokenness, and imperfections. It includes the person who insists on wearing masks and the person who doesn’t wear them at all. It includes the person who thinks it’s all overblown and the person who is hesitant to step a foot out of their door.
We know we’re limited for what we can do and not everyone is comfortable gathering indoors in smaller groups. However, we can make extra efforts to be with those in our church family. I’ve been on my share of Zoom calls since March, and I can honestly tell you that Zoom fatigue is real. I miss seeing the wrinkle of laughter on someone’s face, hearing the sound of kids playing with the toys upstairs, and the low hum of conversations happening around our living spaces. So while Zoom may be the best option for many, here are some ideas for how we can all connect with other people in groups and in our church family as we face the tempting, hibernation siren call of winter.
Go for a Walk — Throw on an extra layer, a hat, another scarf, and invite a couple of group members for a walk. Stroll through any number of local parks, coffee or tea in hand, and remind one another of what’s good and true. Bundle up the kids and go for an on-foot scavenger hunt while looking at Christmas decorations.
Small Dinners — Consider inviting just one or two couples over for a meal, after-dinner coffee, or dessert. Spend an hour reminding one another of what scripture calls us to in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 — Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Dinner On Us — Order dinner for another family at church. Call them and tell them you love them, that you want them to share a meal with you from their own home, and have it delivered hot to their doorstep.
Send a Letter — Take some time to sit and handwrite letters to those in your group or church community. Tell those in your community what you value about them, what you’re praying about for them, and remind them of what’s true about them in Christ.
Give, Serve, Contribute — Romans 12:13 says “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Consider those in your community, group, or in the church. Who among them can you contribute to? Maybe it’s a gift card tucked in their mailbox. Maybe it’s getting the men together in your group on a Saturday morning to help with a pre-winter project. Maybe it’s babysitting for an evening so a couple can have a break from their kids for a few hours. Maybe it’s paying for a single mother’s Christmas wishlist. Find a way to “contribute to the needs of the saints.”
Seek to Show Hospitality — Find ways to show hospitality to those in your community or group who might be the most lonely. Do you have some single people in your group? Have them over for dinner. Know someone who has been housebound for months? Ask if you can visit for a bit, even from a safe distance, just to encourage them. If you can’t open your home, then bring the comfort of your home to theirs. A basket of baked goods, a thermos of hot chocolate, a new Christmas book for the kids, or fresh hot pizza in a box from a local spot.
Intentional Gathering — Make it a point to connect with the women or men in your group, each at different times. Use those nights with a smaller group to share more openly, pray for one another, and enjoy quality time with brothers and sisters in Christ.
Outdoor Warmth — Take advantage of warmer days when you can. Gather for a winter fire, bundle in blankets, and sing some Christmas hymns. Invite your group over for a Sunday morning brunch on your back porch.
Zoom With a Plan — And, if needed, have a Zoom call but here’s a tip: have a plan. Tell your group members to think of one thing in this season that’s been hardest for them, a way they’ve seen God’s faithfulness this year, or a practical need they have that another group member might be able to help with.
Mostly, I keep reminding myself and those around me — resist the urge to disappear from your church community. We have been through a ringer of a year. The human tendency is to isolate, hide, and disappear from the kind of life-giving community we actually desperately need. You might not be able to do all of the above. Be ready to be creative. Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10) and be prepared to make adjustments for those who need it. But don’t forget that while we might not all be gathered in the same place these days, we are all still a part of the family of Christ. We are not designed, created, or even called to live in a separate, isolated world from other believers. Our faith and hearts thrive and breathe easier when the Gospel, grace, and goodness of Jesus is lived out among us. Let’s continue to be the city on a hill, lights shining in the darkness for one another, vessels of hope and love in a world that most desperately needs it.