The word means different things in different contexts. In a hospital, it is protection (for the patient and/or others), though those in isolation for any length of time suffer often psychological damage because of it. In a prison, it is punishment, because even hardened criminals need social contact, and the threat of taking it away is used as a deterrent.
Isolation is not good.
After months of isolating from one another to avoid COVID, our society is reaping the rewards of isolation. Worse yet, the church is reaping those rewards. Out of concern for physical welfare, we have inflicted damage on ourselves, and on those, we seek to protect—the elderly, our children, those who suffer from compromised health. After five months of isolation we need to think through the implications this has on us spiritually and take steps to protect ourselves.
One of the essentials of spiritual health is relationships—particularly relationships with others who follow the King and are at or beyond our level of maturity. These relationships allow us to be real about our spiritual life, seeking guidance, support, and prayer without fear of harming others. In 13 years of conducting spiritual health assessments, this essential has proven to be one of the most important to people’s health—and in most cases one of the easiest to change!
Except when you are in enforced isolation.
So, what can we do?
Debates—arguments—are taking place all over the country regarding whether we should continue to isolate or back off this practice and reclaim our social lives. In so many cases it is evident that people are thinking in “either/or” terms—either we isolate or we go back to what used to be normal.
We don’t have to choose from those options.
So, here are so some ideas that could help us regain balance. I realize these are not likely to make anyone happy who is committed to one side or the other of the “either/or” debate. But I believe we have a responsibility to balance care for ourselves and others physically, emotionally (psychologically), and spiritually. Either/or is not an option.
- Be careful. There is no need to throw caution to the wind and say “I’m done with this!”. Wearing a mask around people we don’t know or in large groups can protect them and us, and is very rarely a true issue for the one wearing it (I am speaking as one of those who suffers psychologically from wearing a mask because of experiences with masks during cancer treatment). So,
–wear a mask, particularly in groups and indoors
–wash your hands and use sanitizer
–choose carefully who you have contact with. Think of it the way we do
with sexual contact—you aren’t just with that person, but everyone else that person has
Remember that we have a responsibility to protect others if we can. Look around you and identify those who are at higher risk. Find ways to help them while protecting them from any possible contagion (not just COVID) that you might bring.
- Worship together. Take steps to facilitate safety (see above). Anyone who says worshiping in front of a screen is the same as worshiping in person is in denial. We need to praise God together, remember the sacrifice of Jesus together, make offerings together, study the Word together. There is something about doing this with other people that is simply not there when we do this alone. We have a spiritual need to be with others as we worship—a need no less important than the need for physical safety.
- 3. Take advantage of opportunities for human contact. When you do things you have to do (grocery shopping, doctor’s visits, work, etc.) don’t miss the opportunity to actually be with the other human beings you encounter. Talk to them as though they are people, not machines processing your needs. Be friendly. Thank them. Our need for human interaction starts here!
- Begin to meet with selected others in open-air if possible—restaurant patios, backyard patios or decks, driveways, etc. if possible. Avoid anyone showing symptoms (even close friends or family) just as you would any other illness (which of us ignores the fact that our friend has the flu and shares that experience with them?).
- When together, don’t just socialize (although that is important!), but spend time praying for one another. Talk about your walk with the Lord. Encourage each other. Hold each other accountable. Celebrate victories with each other. Talk about scripture and what it teaches us about this situation.
Jesus created the Church. It wasn’t a concept or an idea. It was a specific group of people called out of the world to follow Him—together.
Know Jesus and Be Faithful.