Embodied Connection Amidst Physical Distancing

Embodied Connection Amidst Physical Distancing

by Mary Dickau

In the last 3 weeks at BG Homes, we have been facing down COVID-19 with continuous transitional decisions made toward keeping our resident neighbourhood safe and providing good care. These efforts include empowering our community to stand together, to endure, and to find comfort and peace amidst this pandemic. As one of our team said, “It has been like trying to drink all the water that is coming out of the firehose and not drown!”

For instance, how do we put measures in place towards distancing and self-isolation while living out the Gospel that teaches us to break down the walls of isolation and fear? The very act of self-isolation and quarantine means to being hidden—not heard, not seen, not connected. Last week, some of my friends who are in their 30s and 40s told me that they have always enjoyed time away from others; however, now that it is being enforced as protocol, it does not feel very good to them at all. They feel vulnerable, fearful, alone. One person realized what he is encountering now is something that older adults feel much of the time and more so in these days. Strangely, the fear of COVID-19 has now made people fearful of being around older adults too, “In case they get it.” One person at Beulah said that people are fearful to step on the property and bring supplies to the door of the building, in case they run into a resident who might be outside sitting on a bench. What has been set in place as protection for the vulnerable has become twisted into fear OF the vulnerable. Jesus taught us to replace fear with love. What does that mean in this present situation? How can we participate in the love Christ has for the vulnerable during COVID-19 in ways that embody connection while keeping everyone safe?

‘Be Careful but do not be Afraid.’ Fear is so normal for us but God’s response—seen clearly in the gospels—is for us to bring our fear to the One who will replace our fear with love. Loving people in a fearful time has such power of life and this Christ-light shows up strongly in the darkness of these days. Of course, before I can love well, I need to recognize and bring my own fear to Christ; to trust Jesus for readying me to ‘live the gospel’ in the instances of my work and home. I have needed to recognize that being careful and wise is NOT the same thing as being afraid. COVID-19 is giving me an opportunity to practice how to live the Love of God well in fearful circumstances.

The Spirit of God, who has hovered over darkness since before the beginning of time while initiating life, comfort and peace, has a surprising way for us to follow. One surprise at Beulah has been the institution of Patio Concerts. We can no longer physically gather, but two musicians came with their fiddles and guitar to walk around the outside of our buildings playing music. Residents could open their windows, step out on their patios, cheer, and wave to each other. Some residents even came outside to dance and play in the sun— while keeping appropriate distance. We had a beautiful time. Perhaps joy, laughter and comfort are more possible in these days, where we can no longer take our physical life for granted. At a conference on Aging, hosted by Regent College years ago, Maxine Hancock said that one of the best ways to live the Christian life well was to contemplate our mortality for fifteen minutes every day. She explained that as we face our own physical death, we remember that we are finite beings, but also that Christ lives in us forever and has defeated death. Contemplating this mystery gives me a sense of deep grace and hope that reaches far beyond my days and abilities, along with a response of gratitude and increased strength for the day.

Throughout history, Christians have been known by their response to plagues and pandemics. They have walked in when the world walked out. They have held hope in the face of death. While we are all figuring out how to walk the way of Christ in these present circumstances, I invite you to consider how the truth of these words impact you and your community’s response: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.”

Be careful, but don’t be afraid.

This article was originally published in a newsletter by the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. Re-posted with permission. 
About the author

Mary Dickau offers Spiritual and Community Care for a community of more than 350 Older Adult residents at Beulah Gardens. Mary is an elder at Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, and her other job is facilitating an urban retreat called Stillpointe, where she hosts weekly rhythms of prayer and meets with people for Spiritual Direction and Healing Prayer. She is passionate about looking for the love and grace of God found within our shared stories and journey of life. Mary's family includes three adult sons, two daughters-in-law, a therapy dog named Bella and whoever walks in their door. Mary is a founding member of CHAT.

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