Can I Give You A Hug? The Importance Of Connection In A Six-Feet-Apart World

This year has been quite the year. One of the biggest challenges has been dealing with the coronavirus and it’s impact. It’s effected our education system, economy, the way we socialize and celebrate special occasions, and every other part of our lives.

I’ve been most interested in the way that the actual physical distancing of human being has affected us. You see, we were created for connection with other people. We weren’t made to live in isolation. It’s all over the Bible….right from the very beginning!

From Genesis 1, we see that God created humans in His own image. This was a basic distinction that set us apart from all the animals that God created. There is something unique about us. As image bearers of God, we mimic a lot of His character traits. Obviously we aren’t all-powerful and able to live outside of time…so not everything like God. But the potential for connection and relationship is something that we do bear.

Genesis is the first place that we see God’s trinitarian nature revealed. That’s fancy for God being three in one. He is made up of three parts- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three of His parts work together in relationship as a whole. Relationships are at the very core of who God is.

God’s first words after creating Adam were “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) Adam looked over all the animals that God created- named them all while he was at it- but did not find a helper for him in the animal kingdom. So God created Eve. And that’s just at the beginning of Scripture. All through out the Bible, stories revolve around and God moves through relationships between His creation.

Let’s jump to Acts, right when the very first church was taking off. The church was growing like crazy, and the Bible tells us how they all interacted with each other. Acts 2:46-47 says “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” The early church grew and thrived in every day fellowship over basic things like sharing meals together.

Later on in the letters that Paul and others wrote to the churches, the church itself is described as a body with many parts. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body…..The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’. And the head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’. On the contrary those parts of the body that seem to be the weaker are indispensable.” (2 Corinthians 12:12,21-22)

The year 2020 has really proven what the Bible has been saying about us for a long time. When our social interactions were severely limited to prioritize our health, we found ourselves with a severe drop in any kind of social interactions. And we felt it.

For slightly introverted people like me, it seemed kind of nice for a while. But eventually, my God given need for human interaction started to come up. Others felt the struggle from the beginning. Many people have struggled with depression and loneliness at a higher level than ever before.

This week, in the grocery store, I rounded the corner and ran into a lady I used to work with. I called her name, and she looked at me for a minute in confusion. My mask was throwing her off. I dropped my mask and said hi again, and she up through her eyes and exclaimed how good it was to see me.

She started to lean in, then hesitated. “Is it OK if I give you a hug?” I welcomed the hug and we took a few minutes to catch up on life. She told me about her brother who has dealing with some serious health issues only aggravated by his alcoholism. She was devastated that she couldn’t be in the hospital to see him.

We weren’t particularly close when we were co-workers. In fact, I laugh more at the memory of her curtly telling me to be quiet while she was watching Days of Our Lives during lunch. Don’t mess with her stories! But it was obvious by how quickly she started spilling intimate details that she was craving someone to just interact with.

As we hugged one more time, I smiled and headed down the coffee aisle. My spirit felt a little bit lighter. And it wasn’t because our conversation was light and uplifting. It was actually rather the opposite. But we connected for a moment. We shared real life struggles and made physical contact to show each other we were there for one another. And what it did for my soul in the moment was amazing.

I’m not here to judge how little or how much physical contact you choose to have or whether you advocate masks or not. Everyone has their reasons for the decisions they make for their own families. I would just encourage you to make sure that your reasons are driven by prayer and Scripture and not fear.

Regardless of what you decide, one fact is true. You were created for human connection. And if you are a child of God’s, encouragement and fellowship with other believers is even more crucial. A big toe can’t operate the whole body without all the other parts.

So in 2020, let’s get creative and work together to foster that sense of community. A few ideas to try…

Send an ‘Thinking of you!’ text to a different person each day.

Facetime instead of making a voice call whenever possible.

Drop a note in the mail, just to brighten someone’s day.

When you ask someone how they are doing, really ask them. Let them know that you’re really prepared to listen.

If at all physically possible, be at church. Fellowship with other believers will be more encouraging than you can imagine. It’s so important!

Meet a friend for breakfast at McDonalds. Get your food through the drive through and sit in the parking lot in camp chairs and chat while you eat. (Totally done this….it’s amazing.)

Memes. They’re my favorite. Find an encouraging/goofy/lighthearted meme and send it out to a few people for no reason at all.

At work, when someone sits down to just chit chat, turn away from your computer and talk. Even if it’s over some type of video call. Don’t multi task. Be present.

Start a Bible study with someone, or even just study the same book. Then text throughout the week to share what you’ve learned.

So pick a couple of these things this week, and reach out. As one who bears the image of God, reach out to another human who is just as valued by God. Help fulfill that need for human interaction and love on some people. Even if you have to get a little bit creative!

Your thoughts?