One of the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been its isolating effects on people. While we obviously see many people who, through the entire pandemic, who have ignored precautions and continued with their lives as if there was no cause for alarm, those of us who have followed the science … who have seen people suffer from it … even know people who have died from it … are much more prone to stay isolated.
While this is good to help the control of spread, it comes with its own sometimes devastating consequences.
The result has been this sense of isolation. As people of faith, we live by this one affirmation that comes at the very outset of the Hebrew scriptures … the Old Testament in the Christian bible: “It is not good for us to be alone.” We are created as social creatures, and some of us thrive on that reality more than others.
We know through history that one key tactic of punishment in our penal system has been isolation. We have seen it in war as prisoners of war have been isolated for days … months … years from anyone who was one of their compatriots or an ally. We have seen its devastating effects on children who have grown up in abusive homes, which has often meant that they could have no friends and no outside activity. In more extreme cases, these children could not even leave home for school.
While we may not feel it in these extreme forms, isolation still has harmful affects on us. In our brokenness, we often fear that we are the only ones suffering this. In our brokenness, we often fear that no one really knows us … or even cares about us.
The way out of this darkness starts with God. Psalm 139, which is attributed to David, is a song that reflects this faith that, no matter how little we may feel known, God knows every fiber of our being. God is with us through all things, and God who knows us is also the God who will not abandon us.
Brené Brown defines belonging as being seen for who we are without having to “fit in.” Fitting in requires that we change something of ourselves or that we omit some part of ourselves in order to be part of this or that group. Belonging requires nothing of us except that we see and love others unconditionally just as they see us and love us unconditionally.
That is the essence of the love known as agape.
Dr. Brown is quoted as saying that, when it comes to belonging, we are not talking about trying to belong to a group of 100 people … or even 30 people. She says that you life is full if you belong and are intimately known by 2-3 people in your life.
Where do you belong? Who knows you best? Who do you know inside and out? How do you represent this God who knows us and who will be forever by our side no matter what?
Brokenness turns to wholeness when we are truly known!
God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, may we learn to see ourselves, and may we see others (even one of two others) as you see them. Amen.