This is my sweet momma, beaming at me through one of the windows of the assisted living community in which she resides.
Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, I was in the habit of visiting my mom almost daily, hoping my presence would buoy her spirits as she battles chronic health problems. But the coronavirus outbreak means that she and her neighbors are now under a stay-at-home order, and only those who are considered essential for the physical well-being of the residents are allowed into the complex. Striving to honor this vital but difficult order, many families are now relying on communication tools like FaceTime or Duo to maintain “face-to-face” contact with their loved ones. Neither are viable options for our family, mainly because Mom has always been… um… a bit technologically challenged. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen her answer the phone by picking up the TV remote, or respond to a computer pop-up message by shouting at it: “No, I don’t want to close 5 tabs!” All this to say that I have been searching for a way to continue our “face-to-face” visits without the use of technology, and the amazing management team at Mom’s community recently offered a solution to my problem. I am now meeting Mom at the window of the complex’s downstairs activity room almost daily for a little one-on-one time, which consists mainly of my speaking loudly through a closed window while Mom simply smiles at me and says, over and again, “I love you, sweet girl.” I’m overwhelmed with emotion as I share with you the essence of these encounters with my mom. Each “I love you, sweet girl,” is like manna from heaven to me, feeding my soul during an unprecedented period in our world’s history. Yes, I can and do hear those words through a phone line at least twice daily. Still, I find it infinitely more gratifying to stand at that window - to witness the expression on her precious face - as she utters those words to me. But what makes direct, face-to-face interaction with my mom so powerful, even more powerful than the telephone exchanges we share? As with all things, I believe the answer to my question can be found in Scripture. And the short answer to my question is simply this: We were created for fellowship; we were created for community.
God intended for His children to connect – to be physically present with and for one another. God made those intentions clear from the beginning, stating: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18). God’s creation of that helper, woman, was just the start. Through the words of Isaac, God revealed an even greater desire for His children: May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. (Genesis 28:3). A community of peoples, people! God meant for us to share life together by actively loving, encouraging, and caring for one another. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25). And while it’s certainly a blessing to share life through a phone line, or via an email or text message, deep within us exists a hunger to interact with others more intimately… face-to-face. Social distancing is contrary to our very nature. Perhaps that’s why many are finding it a challenge to abide by the stay-at-home directives under which we now find ourselves. Nonetheless, most of us are complying with the instructions of our leaders and are relying on tools like Zoom and FaceTime to stay connected. We are gathering in the cyber-world for exercise, educational and business meetings, worship services, Bible studies, happy hours, game nights… even family dinners! We are stepping onto our porches to join in neighborhood sing-alongs and collective prayers. And yes… we are even speaking loudly to loved ones through closed windows, all in hopes of satisfying our natural inclination to physically connect.
When I consider all that’s going on around me, I quickly recognize that my window visits with Mom, while problematic in some respects, are truly an incredible blessing from God, one I receive humbly and gratefully. Many of you may have a special someone - a grandparent, a parent, a grandchild, a child, a sibling, or even a spouse - you’re longing to see, face-to-face and unbound by restrictions. To bear witness to an “I love you!” or to experience a hug or touch from them, would be a gift beyond compare. But such visits may be impeded by distance, perhaps even foiled by death. I pray that God would ease any sorrow that this separation may be causing you, then fill you with the hope and peace only He can provide. And I pray that your community of peoples rallies around you, sharing in your burden, so that you’ll remember you are never alone.
Today, my heart will celebrate the community of peoples God has placed in my life – a community that loves, encourages and cares for one another, just as God intended. And I will rejoice in my ability to stand at that closed window, speaking loudly through it while Mom simply smiles at me and says, over and again, “I love you, sweet girl.” I gratefully receive her words of adoration, and eagerly await the day when I can fling open her door and hug her tightly.