Pursuing Presence in Isolation (Part 1)

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I’m not one who likes to hug strangers, but the last time I went to the grocery store I had the insatiable urge to embrace everyone I passed. I didn’t, of course. But six feet never felt so far.

Being “close but not quite” isn’t enough. Those six feet only seem to amplify the space between us—awkward and unfulfilling. And while video chats or drive-by waving is much appreciated and needed, they are cheap substitutes, leaving a funky taste in our mouths like something is not quite right.

And it isn’t.

We want more. We are people designed for presence—for close proximity to God and to each other. Our humanity was birthed out of unity, when in the beginning God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit crafted us out of nothing to be communal creatures (Gen. 1). Us became them. There was never just “me” or “I.”

Isolation doesn’t suit us.

I probably don’t need to do too much convincing. If we aren’t already there, we’re on the road to becoming acutely aware of how much we need not only each other but also something outside ourselves. More than blanket platitudes or the guise of ignorant bliss. More than a stimulus check or a few moments of kid-free time. All around us is ache—the shared groan of loss, jilted expectations, and no end in sight. Uncertainty, anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, denial, fingers pointing across the aisle have turned up the emotional thermostat on us all.

Now, more than ever, we need each other.

I don’t pretend to have answers, not a pill to dull the pain produced by our inability to even breathe the same air. But I’m ready to ask the questions, because we cannot give up on being people of presence. We must continue to pursue both human and Divine connection in the hope of not only getting through this but of finding grace in it—not only on the other side, but now.

Consider this the first post in a series reflecting on what presence looks like for us here in pandemic. Like most of us, I don’t know where I’m going. Please don’t posture me an expert. What’s up ahead is fuzzy at best—but I hope you’ll join me anyway.

This entry was published April 6, 2020. It is part of a short series that you may enjoy. Please view other articles in this series at: https://www.sarahewestfall.com/blog .