Socially Distanced, but Spiritually Near

by Rhonda J. Dragomir @RhondaDragomir

Harsh hospital lighting didn’t diminish the glow on my daughter’s face as she embraced Samuel, her firstborn child. Tears fell as I responded to Jana’s texted photo with an electronic hug emoji.

Though I treasured the picture, it was a mere consolation prize compared to the scene I’d envisioned. Covid-19 infection rates soared in the weeks prior to my grandson’s arrival, so I was not permitted to attend his birth, not even to sit in the hospital waiting room.

Touch is important communication, especially to people like me. I embrace, pat, and squeeze friends with enthusiasm, and I must remind myself sometimes not to hug people I’ve just met. The necessity to social distance because of the pandemic has inhibited these sensory conversations, and I have struggled with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

In recent weeks, I’ve been the only congregant in the sanctuary while my pastor-husband preaches live on Facebook. One recent Sunday I paid little attention to the sermon while lamenting, as in Psalm 42:4, “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng” (NIV). There have been no festive throngs recently at my church, and I don’t know how long it might be before we celebrate in person again.

The Holy Spirit responded by helping me keenly sense his nearness. He eased my distress, whispering to my soul, “Though you must be socially distanced, you can remain spiritually close.”

Jesus and his disciples experienced this same crisis of separation. Not only did they worship together, they lived as one during Christ’s three-year ministry. His death devastated the disciples on a level we cannot begin to comprehend. His resurrection exploded their souls with joy we cannot imagine. But soon thereafter Jesus left them, and they would not enjoy face-to-face fellowship again until they reunited in heaven.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” Jesus said. “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me” (John 14:18-19a NIV). Jesus planned to commune with them even when he was socially distanced—the Holy Spirit would be sent, and he would keep them spiritually close.

The Church must not permit physical separation to affect our spiritual oneness. The Holy Spirit not only connects us to Christ, but to each other. Jesus prayed that Christians would be one (John 17:23), and unity among his followers is needed now more than ever as we see the Day of Christ’s return drawing near (Hebrews 10:25). The world needs to hear the voice of God in times of trouble, and we are his mouthpiece.

Jesus suffers much pain caused by social distancing. He is separated from some people by sin and from his beloved bride—the Church—by the constraints of time and physical distance. And yet, can’t we feel his nearness by his Spirit?

I did hold my grandson in my arms when he came home a few days after his birth, and I gave his mom the hug I’d saved especially for her. It was still a life-altering moment, though it didn’t happen according to my perfect plan.

Yes, for the sake of community health we must remain socially distant for now. But through the Holy Spirit we can spiritually embrace, pat, and squeeze to our hearts’ content.

Did you feel it? I’m hugging you right now.

For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. 1 Corinthians 5:3a

TWEETABLE
Socially Distanced, but Spiritually Near – encouragement from @RhondaDragomir on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: An avid reader and writer, Rhonda Dragomir lives in the heart of idyllic horse country in central Kentucky. Her degree in Social Work from Asbury University prepared her for more than forty years of ministry as a pastor’s wife.

Rhonda writes both fiction and nonfiction, and she was named 2019 Writer of the Year by Serious Writer, Inc. Learn more about Rhonda on her website: www.rhondadragomir.com.

Join the conversation: How has social distancing affected you?

Let Go

by Rhonda Dragomir @RhondaDragomir

I collapsed on the floor of the Romanian hotel room and wept. The next day, my husband, Dale, and I would finally receive a miraculous answer to prayer. Shouldn’t I be happy? I wasn’t.

Our agonizing twelve-year quest to become parents had led me to seek help from doctors, endure multiple tests and surgeries, and ingest expensive drugs with terrible side effects. Every month we hoped to learn I carried a child. Every month we were disappointed.

Instead, God ordained a different route to parenthood for us—through Romania, the homeland of Dale’s grandfather. We navigated a maze of obstacles, each one overcome by prayer, and after five grueling weeks of effort, we planned to adopt a five-month-old girl in a Romanian courtroom.

The night before the adoption, unease troubled my stomach. I had hit a wall which yet needed to be scaled. Emotion-charged hours of prayer revealed I had not completely relinquished my own will. I still wanted to give birth to a baby, and I was angry with God because that petition had not been granted.

The realization stunned me.

Our dilemma was not unlike the three Hebrew children who faced the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar. Who wouldn’t rather live than die in a fiery furnace? They surely petitioned God for his protection from the king’s edict commanding them to worship his image. Obedience to God should spare them Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath, right?

Wrong. Their defiance stirred the king to greater anger, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced certain, painful death in a fire heated to seven times its normal intensity. Even their last words spoke their heart’s desire: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

We tell this story to our children not only because of these men’s faith or courage, but also because of their absolute surrender to the will of God. They let go of their very hope of staying alive and consigned themselves completely to the will of God. When they did, God showed his love and power by walking through the flames with them and ultimately sparing their lives.

Common wisdom dictates, “When you reach the end of the rope, hang on.”  My pathway to motherhood taught me better wisdom: “When you reach the end of the rope, let go.”

That night in the hotel, I confessed my resentment to God—He knew it anyway. I surrendered to his superior wisdom and quit struggling against his will. I let go of the baby I would never conceive to receive the baby he chose for me. I jumped right into the arms of my eternal God, who waited there to catch me.

A few days later, Dale and I looked into the wide, brown eyes of our new daughter with wonderment and joy. She was perfect! God answered our prayers in his flawless way, which was much better than we could have imagined. That daughter, Jana, has been a delight every day since.

Jana’s presence in my life reminds me every day: God’s ways are best. His blessings sometimes only come when I let go of my own desires and fall into his everlasting arms.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms… Deuteronomy 33:27a NIV

TWEETABLE
Let Go – encouragement when #FollowingGod is hard from @RhondaDragomir on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: An avid reader and writer, Rhonda Dragomir lives in the heart of idyllic horse country in central Kentucky. Her degree in Social Work from Asbury University prepared her for more than forty years of ministry as a pastor’s wife.

Rhonda writes both fiction and nonfiction, and she was named 2019 Writer of the Year by Serious Writer, Inc. Learn more about Rhonda on her website: www.rhondadragomir.com.

Join the conversation: Can you remember a time when you fell into the arms of God?