It has been three years since we’ve have personally visited with any of my wife’s South African family. It was the occasion of her and her twin’s 50th birthday. I arranged for her sister to fly to America for a surprise reunion. Little did we know that would be our last visit for at least three years.
In the past several weeks, I have had an inner longing to visit her family in South Africa, as has my wife. This afternoon, I spent time watching videos I shot of the surprise birthday reunion, just to get a sense of connection again.
I am not sure what has brought this on. Perhaps it’s the fact that we have both been vaccinated and I am raring to go, to reconnect. I can say for most of this pandemic I have fared well and believe the Lord has worked deeply in my life. However, as Spring Break approached, I became more antsy. Out of the 38 years I have been in campus ministry, I think I have taken more than 30 trips with students to help out various ministries for a week. As I shared with a colleague whom I have known for many years, my mind just naturally gears up beginning in late February in anticipation of a trip.
I think those trips have been when I have connected with students the best. When our ministry was much larger, these trips provided one of the few opportunities to get to know many students more personally and them to get to know me more than just the man speaking up front. Now we have a much smaller group, but with the pandemic, connecting is still difficult because of the many restrictions.
I think as humans we have a natural desire to connect with other human beings; yet the pandemic has prevented a lot of us from doing so. And for those it hasn’t has likely been because the need for connection was strong enough to ignore government guidelines for interaction. People just visited whom they wanted to visit. They longed for connection and were not going to be deprived of it.
I’m teaching on Acts 4:32-37 tonight at our weekly student meeting. What we see there is the tremendous power of connection, with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and with one another as committed believers. It caused them to be bold and courageous in the face of hardship and persecution. It caused them to care deeply for one another, making sure all in their number had their essential needs met.
I wrote back in June that I longed for this type of community, that I didn’t want to return to what has become normal for church worship services—pastors and worship bands doing everything on stage and people sitting (or standing) passively, and doing this week after week. I still don’t.
What I hope this pandemic and its impact on our lives is teaching us is that we all need deep connection, much deeper than many of us realized before the pandemic. Yet, even before, there were many lonely people in our midst, faithful attenders at our services, who were longing for deep connection and were not finding it.
On the other side of this pandemic, I hope that I can do better at helping people feel connected, driven by the memories of my current longings. It is deeply saddening to think of so many lonely people, in a Christian community of all places. And I confess that often I was part of the problem. I often gravitated toward the people I knew well and ignored those I didn’t, bent on satisfying my own desires to connect with familiar people.
If we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and of the brothers and sisters of the early Church, then we need to find ways that all involved are connecting with others in the Body, not just superficially, but deeply. This is what each of us was created for. As the Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) And so it isn’t, for any of us.
It is incumbent upon us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. And helping them feel connected is one crucial way of loving them. Of course, this is very challenging in such an individualistic and independent culture, but our national citizenship, if we are followers of Jesus, is superseded by our heavenly citizenship, where love of God and neighbor are of the highest value. In other words, having deep connection among us.
© Jim Musser 2021 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.