For the tactile extrovert, self-isolating is not an easy thing! Not being with people all day everyday never mind the absence of shaking hands, fist pumps, back slapping and just plain old hugs.
We are living through one of the most unprecedented periods in this country’s history. As of last night, the Government have rightfully put restrictions in place to limit our movements in order to slow down the potentially huge threat of Covid-19 and allow for an already stretched NHS to cope. To spend time at home is a very very small sacrifice in the context of a problem that is of pandemic proportions.
Nevertheless, not to be able to speak with our neighbours face to face and do these everyday tasks that we take for granted takes some getting used to. For the most part, I feed off being with other people which gives me energy and, whilst I still have family around me who I enjoy being with, its different. For my children who are used to the face to face contact with teachers in school, they are having to get used to online material and the frustrations of submitting work when the internet is struggling to cope with increased demand. For Caroline and me as ministers, a major part of our role is relational work, being face to face with people on a daily basis so we too have had to adapt to the whole new world of Zoom, the multi-people online conference tool. It's not the medium of choice but nonetheless it works and it gets different groups of people together albeit in a virtual sense in the absence of glorious 3D. This, for the forseeable future is the new normal and we must get used to engaging with each other in more innovative ways; family to family, friend to friend and neighbour to neighbour. But...we are STILL in community. We remain connected with each other through the ties that bind and we are still 'present' in each others lives.
I've been reflecting on the disciples stood on a hill scratching their heads and perhaps a little bewildered (I know I would be) as Jesus said farewell to them before ascending into heaven. How would they cope without Him in their lives each day? For three and a half years He'd been constant. However, they were soon to learn at Pentecost that in fact Jesus hadn't left them alone at all, rather He'd sent them The Helper or, as we know Him better, the Holy Spirit. He wasn't the Jesus they'd been used to seeing and spending time with each day but nevertheless He was and is God, part of the Trinity and they were to encounter The Holy Spirit's presence in incredible ways as we trace the early church through the New Testament.
As a follower of Jesus, I can't walk this journey without knowing that the Holy Spirit is present in my life and in the world around me. I communicate regularly with Him; sometimes to say thank you, sometimes to have a rant about stuff (!) and often, very often, to ask for help. The Holy Spirit brings light into my darkness, peace to my anxiety, hope to my despair. I trust Him implicitly even though I cannot see Him. It is very difficult to articulate the Holy Spirit but at times like these, His presence can feel like a virtual hug and right now... I'll take that.