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
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.
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