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 interment 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!
Our daily devotionals will begin on Monday, April 20.