Covid – 19 and the measures put in place to manage its spread, lockdown being just one of them, have strained or, at the very least, changed our ability to connect with others in different ways, both tangible and intangible. A mask hides our smile. An elbow or foot bump has replaced hugs and kisses. We now think twice about celebrating special events and milestones in our lives and good weather is, of course, a permanent guest at every (outside) gathering.
If our relationships with others give our lives purpose and meaning then it is the deep connections that cause our hearts to “sing”. This is true of our relationship with God, with our spouse, our children, extended family or loved ones.
Who remembers that glorious day back in May this year when South Africa entered Level 4 of the nationwide lockdown and we were permitted to exercise outdoors within a radius of 5km but only between the hours of 6h00 and 9h00?
After 5 weeks of hard lockdown, this was a welcome relief. So, Monday to Friday, as soon as it became light, I could be found pounding the streets taking in every sight and sound until it was time to once again enter my property and close the gate to the outside world. As I reflect now on that time, it is hard to believe that this is how so many of us lived and worked every day. Rarely leaving our homes except if we were a so- called essential worker with the necessary permit or to obtain essential services, being food or medical services.
But as with so many things in life, the novelty soon wore off and I found myself less and less motivated to get up, get dressed and get out the door, especially as the colder and darker mornings set in. Then, one day a woman on staff in our church that pre-Covid, I would meet every few weeks as part of our pastoral check in, a system we have in place for spiritual accountability and to build relationally, suggested that we do a “walky – talky”.
As the name implies, we would talk as we walked together, sharing our lives and our hearts with each other. Apart from the obvious physical and mental health benefits of walking outside in the fresh air on a regular basis, our relationship reaped the benefit as well. Five months later, while we are only required to meet once a month, by mutual agreement we continue to meet once a week, in spite of the fact that gyms have since re-opened. This is the power of relationship, the impact of deep connection.
Over time, I invited others to join me on my morning walks so that we could spend relaxed time together away from the somewhat stiff setting of the office or coffee shop. For there is nothing like seeing someone first thing in the morning, in exercise clothes rather than day clothes, without the usual make up, hair un-styled … all of which we often use as masks to face the world. To see one another in our “undone” (both literally and figuratively) state is to see us as we really are. To know us as we truly are.
Timothy Keller, the renowned pastor and author said this: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us”.
While Keller was speaking here in the context of marriage, this wisdom can be applied to all our relationships with those we consider close. No matter our age or stage in life, each of us has a need to know and be known by others. This is how God ordained it. We thrive on relationship with Him and relationship with others. This is how we grow in our spiritual walk and in every area of our lives, and, in particular, this is what makes the difficult moments in our lives easier to bear.