The Covid-19 pandemic has become something of an “isolation equalizer.”
People everywhere are living in tension and isolation with businesses closed, services restricted, and life as we’ve known it ground to a halt. We are, all of us, isolated.
And yet there is tremendous opportunity to unite in our shared isolation.
I have often felt “other” in my same-sex attraction (SSA). I worried that people would not accept me if they knew, and in some cases my fear of sharing proved valid.
In my fear I have felt isolated, as though there were something about me that made me unwanted or unseen among my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet right now I feel very connected to others as we all experience these pangs of isolation.
I wonder if this current global crisis could serve to help people, especially the Church, understand sexual minorities better.
When the world as a whole cannot hug, could they perhaps empathize with how often we long for the touch of another, a reassuring hand to tell us we are not alone? Could they see that desire as not inherently sexual, but instead deeply human, wired into us as beings created for relationship with others?
My favorite fantasy author, Jim Butcher, says it well in Skin Game:
There’s power in the touch of another person’s hand. We acknowledge it in little ways, all the time. There is a reason human beings shake hands, hold hands, slap hands, bump hands.
It comes from our very earliest memories, when we all come into the world blinded by light and color, deafened by riotous sound, flailing in a suddenly cavernous space without any way of orienting ourselves, shuddering with cold, emptied with hunger, and justifiably frightened and confused. And what changes that first horror, that original state of terror?
The touch of another person’s hands.
Hands that wrap us in warmth, that hold us close. Hands that guide us to shelter, to comfort, to food. Hands that hold and touch and reassure us through our very first crisis, and guide us into our very first shelter from pain. The first thing we ever learn is that the touch of someone else’s hand can ease pain and make things better.
That’s power. That’s power so fundamental that most people never even realize it exists.
I just want a really long hug! Touch is my primary love language. I can hug my wife. I can hug my kids. They also don’t have much of a choice in that right now.
But I miss the touch of others outside my home. I miss my church people. I miss the casual touch that occurs in hanging out with my friends. I miss sitting side-by-side on the couch with my brothers and having my head rest on their shoulders.
Video calls help in the isolation, but they are not the same as having a person here and being held close and tight.
And so I wonder, could the Church perhaps begin to understand the isolation that many of our single members feel when they go to bed at night and have no one there to fall asleep beside, listening to the reassuring sound of another person’s breathing?
Will their hearts go out to those who have no family to shelter beside? Will they invite those singles to shelter in place in their homes alongside their loved ones?
To hear those of us who are married saying, “Yes, we love our spouses, but we also need the reassuring touch of our friends as well. We desire chosen family outside our nuclear family as well.”
Perhaps this coronavirus crisis could call the Church to a greater understanding the importance of friendship and biblical community that says to all members of the body of Christ, single, married, widowed, divorced, gay, straight, etc. —
“You are seen, loved, valued, and held within this community and within the arms of Christ.”
As our other brother, Daniel, recently wrote of the nuclear family, the body of Christ is supposed to be so much much than collections of nuclear family units.
We see a beautiful picture of what church and family could be in Acts 2:42-47:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In the early church, people were thrown out of their families and synagogues. They lost businesses. They had to be family to one another, and that was more than just on Sunday morning. They did life together.
Couldn’t we all better learn how to be Jesus to one another? Could we enter into each other’s isolation and distress and speak truth and life?
Could we wrap our arms around the isolated and forgotten and remind them of their worth as fellow image-bearers and help them know that Jesus sees them in their loneliness and isolation?
Could the Church be the arms of Jesus, loving one another better — even the least of these?
Here is a poem called Collective Solitude that captures some of these thoughts and tensions:
Missing the faces, the touch of my community
Feeling the massed tension of collective solitude
This very thing that unites us also disconnects
When normalcy resumes, if it resumes, what will be the new norm?
Moments of clarity
So many feel isolated and other
Can they finally see us in our isolation?
Will they remember this time when the dust settles?
Or will they resume their normal lives
Forgetting those of us that feel alone daily
Even when we are surrounded by others?
Can the Church see us, and others, as fellow image-bearers?
Could they love us with the love of Christ?
Enter into our pain and solitude
And tell us we are worth their time and their love?
What are some ways this pandemic has helped you better connect with others? What are some things you hope for from your biblical community going forward beyond the pandemic?