The contrarian impulse can bring out the worst in us and our best. When momma put the cookie jar on top of the refrigerator, she only made it a more interesting challenge. Tell a population what they can’t do, like “practice social distancing,” and there will always be a cohort that has to defy those regulations in the most flamboyant ways possible. The contrarian impulse is as predictable as it is dangerous, but I have been impressed by how members of our church have responded to the Covid-19 restrictions in rebellious ways that are positive, healthy, creative and—dare I say it?—spirit-led. Their “inner contrarian” has been provoked. They know that what is needed is not social distancing but physical distancing. In anxious times, we need (safe) socializing more than ever. We need connection. We need ministry.
For many who were already feeling out-of-touch with friends or disconnected with loved ones, this pandemic has generated a fresh determination to connect, to make that call, write that email, send that letter, or find some other way of taking care of the personal business we have put-off for too long. Why does it take a threat to make that become so clear? I love this poem by Lynn Ungar. In the days ahead, I hope it inspires you to find creative ways to touch without touching.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You can hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, this has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
—Lynn Ungar 03-2020

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