We were designed for community; this is normal. Whatever the “new normal” may be, it should not include insulation and isolation: physical, social, emotional and spiritual. There are amazing examples from history of people who grew good fruit on solitary trees: Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jesus, Frankl, Mandela… and many more. Paul was a prolific prisoner writing enduring truths with the ink of isolation. Even then, he wrote of his longing for people. The luminary was not so lost in ideas that he did not yearn for human companions.
I thank God through Jesus for every one of you. That’s first. People everywhere keep telling me about your lives of faith, and every time I hear them, I thank him. And God… knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God’s gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! But don’t think I’m not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you.
Please don’t misinterpret my failure to visit you, friends. You have no idea how many times I’ve made plans for Rome. I’ve been determined to get some personal enjoyment out of God’s work among you, as I have in so many other non-Jewish towns and communities. But something has always come up and prevented it. Everyone I meet—it matters little whether they’re mannered or rude, smart or simple—deepens my sense of interdependence and obligation. And that’s why I can’t wait to get to you in Rome, preaching this wonderful good news of God. (Romans 1)
Many who have been isolated from loved ones in 2020 can echo this phrase: “The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache.” Whatever your plans are for 2021, do not let distance, pandemics, economics or politics keep you separated from loved ones. If you make New Years resolutions, resolve to be together, to be present, and to be known.
The apostle John writes, “Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” Writing to his protégé, Timothy, Paul says: “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly…” While we see authors of scripture as spiritual giants, their longings were as plain as yours and mine:
"But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while." - Romans 15:22-24
Many a timeless truth came from the quill of quiet solitude, but the swirling thoughts of our spiritual forefathers were grounded in humanity that longed for a hug, a good meal together, and the fortification that came from seen-breath encouragement.
"I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete." - 2 John 12