Hasn’t it been fascinating to see the unexpected lessons that have (and will continue to) come out of the longest period of isolation that we may ever experience?
Companies are learning that their employees may not only survive but thrive while working remote. People have discovered new loves of baking and home projects.
And we’ve realized more than ever before that people are created for community. Schools, restaurants, churches: remember how we used to find relationships and human connection on a daily basis? Until suddenly we couldn’t.
As a result, clinical depression increased, substance abuse grew dramatically, and the CDC reports that over 40% of adults reported “adverse mental health conditions.”
Why would this all come as a shock? It really shouldn’t. And yet, it did to many. Even some that experienced it first-hand seemed surprised by how deep the pain of isolation truly was. And while I’m not here to argue the medical necessity of our recent isolations, it has become increasingly evident that there are dangers in removing oneself from life in community.
It is no wonder that our hearts and minds crave connection with others. We are made to be relational beings. We are made in the image of a relational God! In the account of creation from Genesis 1, we see God as He creates all things from nothing. When it came time for God to create people, He chose to reveal more of Himself. He chose to reveal His triune nature – three in one, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added)
The first time God revealed His heart for community was when he used the Trinity as the model for humanity. The second comes shortly thereafter when God points out that “it is not good for man to be alone,” and He created the first woman.
Furthermore, God commands His people throughout the Bible to be in community: love one another, forgive one another, serve one another, show kindness to one another, and confess your sins to one another. It all seems quite impossible on your own!
God designed His people for community, first with Him, then with others. He only encourages isolation in one situation: temporarily withdrawing from distraction to grow closer to Him. Otherwise, choosing to remove ourselves from community is choosing to step outside of God’s design. We find ourselves without purpose and without focus.
Even knowing what we do, there are many times in life where isolation can seem so tempting. When we isolate ourselves there is no accountability to others, no expectations that we may fail to meet, no intentional effort required. During these times isolation can be the easy, more comfortable option. It becomes an escape from something we don’t want to face or a protection from something we fear.
This is especially relevant to me as the mother of a teen. My son is at an age and stage where he feels far more comfortable in isolation than facing the awkwardness of life as a teenager. I can’t say I blame him. I can recall the pressures, the pain, the confusion, and the self-consciousness that come part and parcel with growing up.
However, when I reflect on my own story, I see that there was always an adult that had already endured the pain and loneliness of isolating oneself and subsequently chose to show me that it wouldn’t last forever. These people (parents, teachers, older siblings, pastors) encouraged me to take risks in the relationship, even without knowing the end of the story, because being in community matters.
As I parent my own son, I find I sometimes want to just push him from the nest and tell him that it’s good for him. Tell him that I know best, and some day he’ll see what I mean. If only forcing a teenager was an effective strategy with pleasant results! But it’s not…
So, we choose to model it instead. We engage in community as closely to Christ’s example as we can in our broken humanity. It may be awkward. It may be uncomfortable. It will likely leave us broken and hurt at times because it involves people and people are messy.
But we continue to press in to community. We are commanded to do it. We will grow through it. We were designed for it.
Charese Pettis is an advocate for healthy families through church and school ministry. She believes that parents have a beautiful opportunity to lead their families to know and love God through His word.
Charese is happily married to her high school sweetheart, David, with whom she raises their 4 incredible kids in Spokane, WA. She enjoys baking scones on Sunday mornings, Friday night family sleepovers, and sunshiny days playing in nature.