April 27, 2020 • Life for Leaders
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”
Genesis 1:27; 2:18 (NRSV)
According to a recent headline from Business Insider, a “Third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown.” A New York Times headline claims that “Half the World Is On Lockdown.” No matter the actual numbers, almost all of us have been experiencing what is variously called “lockdown,” “stay at home,” “safer at home,” “quarantine,” or “shelter in place.” Even if we are not self-isolating because we have the novel coronavirus or have been exposed to it, we have been mostly sequestered at home, able to go out only for brief, essential trips.
Depending on where you live, you’ve been in lockdown for at least a month, with the promise of more to come. I live in the County of Los Angeles where the “Safer-at Home” order has been extended to May 15, at least. That will mean two months of hiding out at home at the very minimum.
The people I talk to these days express a variety of emotions when it comes to the lockdown. Those who live alone often feel isolated and lonely, cut off from the human interaction they love and need. They are wishing desperately for the chance to hang out with other folks or exchange a hug or two. The people who are sheltering with family or roommates, in addition to longing for diverse human interaction, may also be feeling trapped with people who are driving them a bit crazy. A friend of mine who dearly loves his children said to me, “I’m afraid I’m about ready to lose it with them.” If you’ve ever spent much time alone with preschool-aged children, you can probably relate to how he feels. He’s not quite to the level of Jack Torrance in The Shining, but he could sure use some extended time outside of his confining home and away from his beloved but exasperating kids.
Beginning with today’s Life for Leaders devotion, I’d like to offer some thoughts on what I’m calling “Life in Lockdown.” I’m not going to offer a lot of practical advice on how you should be living these days. You can find plenty of that online (for example, see Business Insider’s article: “4 astronauts reveal their secrets to surviving months of isolation with other people”). Instead, what I’d like to do is to reflect on how Scripture might help you think, feel, and live differently in your current sequestration. Maybe there are things God wants you to discover during this time and new grace to be received.
If you’re one of those who aches for more time with people, know that what you’re feeling is essentially human. After all, we were created for community with others. In Genesis 1:27, for example, God created humankind as “male and female.” The first command given by God to human beings was to “be fruitful and multiply,” which means, most literally, to make more people. As image bearers of God, we live in relationship with others as an essential aspect of our created identity and calling.
In Genesis 2, God starts out by creating a solitary man. But then God observes, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2:18). God creates a woman as the man’s partner. Together the man and the woman, and the people they produce, will do their essential work of caring for creation, guarding it and helping it to be productive (Genesis 2:15). Human life and human work happen in community, according to God’s design.
Though, as we’ll see later in this series, there are times when it is good for a person to be alone for a set period of time, the creation narrative reveals the communal nature of humanity. Like the triune God whose image we bear, we are meant to exist in relationship with others. Thus, the longing we feel when living in isolation is an expression of who God has made us to be. Enforced sequestration can actually put us in touch with essential aspects of our humanity that we might otherwise take for granted.
For example, a few days ago a friend of mine came to drop off a package on our front porch. Though we remained many feet apart, I felt such joy in seeing this friend. I realized more than ever just how my relationship with this person meant to me. And, more deeply, I felt more strongly than I often do how much relationships mean in my life.
In this unusual season of life it is wise for us to remain physically distant from others, at least for a few more weeks. But it still remains true that, in general, it is not good for a man or a woman to be alone. Thus, in a time when physical proximity is unhealthy, we must seek other ways to connect. We need this, and so do others in our lives, including those whose aloneness may be particularly acute these days.
Something to Think About:
How are you feeling about the lockdown you’re experiencing these days? Are there things about it that you find pleasing? Are there things you find painful?
As you find yourself wishing you had more engagement with others, what are you really longing for? What do you miss about being with other people? What do you value most about your relationships with others?
Something to Do:
If you can find a few moments of quiet, reflect on how you’re feeling during the lockdown. Be attentive to different kinds of feelings. Talk to God about these and see what God wants to teach you.
Gracious God, you have made us as beings in community. We exist for fellowship with you, to be sure, but also for relationship with each other. Thus, in this particular time of life, when we’re living so distantly from others, we feel out of sorts, if not painfully lonely. Help us, Lord, to learn in this time more about who you have made us to be. Give us new appreciation for the relationships we have with others in our families, friendship groups, neighborhoods, workplaces, and churches. Show us how we can reach out and connect with people in new ways. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: People are Created in God’s Image (Genesis 1:26, 27; 5:1)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
I enjoy your effort to relate scripture to the pandemic. There is much folk wisdom on the news, some expressed by Christian. I like the exercise of thinking Biblically about how we should relate to the response we can make with others. It has really helped me to relate the Bible to our current events, you are doing a great job.