April 21, 2020by Reverend Dan on April 21, 2020
“The Lord is a refuge in times of trouble.”
Do you remember dreaming of the day when you could stay at home all day every day? Well, that day came a little sooner than we anticipated. Usually one has to wait for retirement, but thanks to the Coronavirus, we’ve already arrived at that moment in life. The problem is, it’s not at all what we envisioned. Every day is like the previous one, trapped in four walls, going a bit stir-crazy with cabin fever.
Human beings are instinctively social. It’s natural for us to feel alone or lonely when we are isolated from others. When God created man even He said man is not meant to live alone. The early people lived together in tribes and as a result our brains evolved (can you use the words “evolved” or “evolution” in a Christian devotional?) to rely on social connections as a means of survival. In fact, according to neuroscientist John Cacioppo, who has made a career out of studying loneliness, “The absence of social connection triggers the same, primal alarm bells as hunger, thirst and physical pain.” Put simply, “Humans don’t do well if they’re alone.”
One thing that I find extremely interesting is that modern life, with all its conveniences, has led to a sharp increase in isolation. You would think with the many forms of social media available to us it would be the opposite, but it’s not. Loneliness is on the rise. According to Cacioppo, “The percentage of Americans who responded that they regularly or frequently felt lonely was between 11% and 20% in the 1970s and 1980s. By 2010 it was closer to 40% to 45%.”
Humans are not DNA hard-wired to be alone. When a child is bad, they are placed alone in “time out”. (When I was a child we called “time out” the woodshed.) When someone breaks the rules in prison, they are put in “solitary confinement.” Being alone is considered a punishment because we are social beings. When we are alone for too long we are more anxious, stressed, and worried. All our emotions are exacerbated: fear, grief, and sadness all worsen. As a result, we feel more fatigued and depressed.
I have been trying to frame the isolation of “quarantined” and “sheltered in place” in a new light. I have tried to come up with a different perspective from which to view the current situation. And I have come up with an interesting word to replace the negative aspect of “quarantined” and “sheltered in place”. How would our mindsets change if we thought of our homes as a “sanctuary”? I know that the normal definition of sanctuary is “a consecrated place”, like the holy of holies in the temple at Jerusalem, or the part of a Christian church where the altar is. But there is another definition of sanctuary: “a place of refuge and protection”. And isn’t that what why we are staying at home? Refuge and protection from the virus? We’re not at home as a punishment. We’re here to try and stop the tide of this tsunami known as COVID-19 and stay clear of its effects.
Nothing can replace human face-to-face interaction. Social media has become a lifeline to keeping in touch with others and we should be thankful for it. One day soon, however, we will be able to gather and hopefully we will never take that for granted again. Until then, I encourage you to reframe the way you see being at home. Use the sanctuary of wherever you live as a place of refuge and protection.
And since you are in the sanctuary, why not worship God? He’s always with us, so we’re never alone, even when we’re isolated. He is our refuge.
“Father, Thank you for a place to find refuge and hope. In these times, we come to You in the sanctuary of our homes and praise Your Holy Name. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”