Humans are wired for connection and touch. So what is a human to do when drawing near is both what we most need and, in an age of pandemic, what might end us?
Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you. – James 4:8 (NRSV)
Social distancing is our new way of life. When people we don’t live with come closer than six feet these days, we might experience a frisson of fear. What a strange and alienating reality.
Humans are wired for connection and we do better – mentally and physically – with touch. Some sources say twelve hugs a day for optimal well-being. So what is a human to do when drawing near is both what we most need and, in an age of pandemic, what might end us?
The disciple James tells us that if we draw near to God, God will draw near to us. Is this a bribe? A threat? A tease? An invitation?
If we draw too near to God, will we be blown to bits? Or enfolded with love?
Will we be infected with something that will overwhelm our resistance, or healed of what ails us?
Panentheism believes that God lives in all things. If that is true, how can God be anywhere but here? Is God social-distancing from us too?
Quantum physics teaches that true contact is an illusion of nerve endings and brain signals. The electrons of every atom in the universe are, in reality, constantly repelling the electrons of every other atom. They reach for each other – but never quite touch. Perhaps the urge from James is an urge to this kind of proximity – safe space, close but never touching, sharing each other’s energy fields, distanced but deeply attracted in a felt way.
Imagine this attraction between us and God as:
the glance of first love across a crowded space;
the skin-sense of two people on a first date in a darkened movie theatre, whose hands are not quite touching;
the umbilical connection of mother and newborn in different rooms – sensing, smelling, hearing despite distance, the hunger growing, the breasts responding.
God, you are already here, within us and growing, without us and protecting. Make yourself known anew, always near.