Admittedly, isolating at home in the spring of 2020 didn’t bother me too much at first. I didn’t realize how busy my life had become until it suddenly wasn’t and, honestly, I needed a break from all the hustle and bustle.
Late that summer I had a book release and by then I was starting to see the drawbacks of such intense social separation. Most of us live with expectations about the future based on what we’ve planned or prepared for, or the way things should be under ordinary circumstances. Nothing about 2020 was ordinary, including book releases.
There was no launch party, no book signing at my local Barnes & Noble. Although books are written in isolation, these events in the past have allowed me to meet the readers I hoped for and imagined as I wrote. Personal feedback gives validation and meaning to the work. Events provide a chance to celebrate with family and friends who’ve supported me in the process — it’s one of my favorite things about book launches.
In 2021 I released a companion journal, but books stores hadn’t resumed book signings. A big event where I’d hoped to share these books with a target audience took place virtually instead of in person for the second year in a row. Longed for hopes and dreams seemed to dry up and disappear. When the expectations I’d held didn’t line up with the reality I faced, it affected me. I lost my footing. I started to forget why God called me to my particular work, why it all mattered anyway.
Fast forward to this year when I was able to attend an in-person convention and finally share my books face-to-face. It made me realize how much I needed to connect with people — personally, professionally, and creatively. I needed to talk to real people and remind myself why, and for whom, I write; it renewed my commitment to serve my readers. I needed to surround myself with people who share my interests and to hear their stories. I needed meaningful conversations with strangers I encountered in airports and on planes. I need social interaction beyond the four walls of my house and Sunday morning services.
Recently my husband and I traveled out of state to witness a couple from church renew their vows. A few of us stayed at the same hotel and had a delightful overnight trip. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we committed to getting together more often outside of church. We joked about who would be the next couple to renew their vows so we could plan another trip.
Text chats are great for prayer requests, but they can never replace hugs and handshakes.
It can become a problem when we remain isolated from the world for too long. The Christian life is lived most fully in community. The embodiment of Biblical characteristics like love, mercy, compassion, and generosity naturally requires a recipient.
These days so much of the world has gone virtual. Sometimes that can be a good thing: I certainly don’t mind the shorter lines at the Department of Driver Services! But telecommuting, distance learning, or meeting over Zoom instead of around a table physically removes our bodies from our experiences.
God is relational and practical Christianity hinges on community. We weren’t intended to merely interact with avatars on a screen. We were designed for flesh and blood relationships. Being around people reminds us of who we are and who we want to be. It’s one thing to admire particular character traits and behaviors, but it’s another to live them out among others.
Do you feel the effects of too much isolation? Invite a neighbor over for brunch or to check out a new restaurant. Meet an old friend for an afternoon movie. Join a book club or a Bible study with people who share your interests. Visit someone who isn’t able to get out and see others.
I want to thrive in the sweet spot between hustle and bustle and social separation. Are you with me?