21 Day Devotional
How to turn forced distancing into the most powerful, spiritual event of your life.
What Will Your Perspective Be?
Isolation has a negative connotation. Generally speaking, most see isolation as a bad experience. It means to be separated away from others, to be alone. Isolation is a form of punishment or torture in prisons and internment camps. We discipline our children with isolation: Go to your room! or Time out! We even use the word in regard to singling out problematic issues; we often want to “isolate the problem” in order to fix it.
In stark contrast, “retreat” has a positive connotation. Even in the secular world, creative thinkers retreat, alone, from the hustle and bustle of life to allow their creative juices to flow. For centuries, Church Fathers and spiritual directors have preached the power of retreat and have practiced what they preached. Modern-day spiritual leaders encourage personal retreats, and some will espouse that even laity should take a personal retreat annually - time to remove oneself from others to pursue spiritual growth and rest for the soul.
Due to the current, unprecedented COVID-19 crisis in our world today, all Americans are finding themselves “quarantined” in one form or another. Forced social distancing is challenging our patience and propelling us out of our comfort zones. Most of us still have the comfort of family close by; although many may be very much alone for a variety of circumstances. Some have even been quarantined in a designated space for a total of 14 days - completely removed from family and friends.
Whether semi-alone or very much alone, what will your perspective be? Will you see this period of forced distancing as isolation, a punishment? Or will you see it as a retreat, a gift? Given your perspective, this period of forced distancing could be the most powerful spiritual event of your life. Through a variety of approaches, this quarantine could bring peace and healing to your soul - perhaps when you didn’t even know it needed peace and healing. Up to now, you have been too busy to notice.
This removal from others could be the combination of isolation and consolation. Isolation because you are alone - removed from others. Consolation because you can never be removed from God. The Psalmist declared, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). The word stem “con” means “together” meaning your isolation could offer beautiful consolation from God. In the spirit of Shakespeare, we will create a word that encompasses this idea of isolation bringing consolation: isoulation!
My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. Song of Songs 2:10
The poetic Old Testament book of the Song of Solomon is a portrayal of intense love and intimacy. It is often referenced as an analogy to the relationship of Jesus with His bride, the Church. Jesus is saying to us, Rise up, my love, and come away. He longs for that intimacy with us. He has beautiful words of love and consolation to share with us, but we are awfully busy, aren’t we? As we are forced to shut down and remove ourselves from the norms of everyday living, we are discovering just how attached we are to the pleasures and busyness of this world. Although these distractions may not be sins, they can - and do - keep us from hearing our Lord whispering, Come away! Now is where the hard questions must be faced: will we use this time of forced distancing to hear that invitation and respond to it? Or will we choose to grapple with impatience, anxiety, and fear? Will we hug our electronic devices, working fiercely to maintain connectedness through social media? Will we frantically turn to those who are powerless to heal and save? Or will we embrace solitude in order to spend intimate time with the Lover of our souls?
O God, you are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water,
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You.
Your right hand upholds me.