Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you. – James 4:8 (NRSV)
Social distancing has become our 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 12 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.
Advent literally means “come toward.” In Advent we remember and reenact an end to every kind of separation from God, of God “up there” and us “down here.” God, already here, within us and growing, without us and protecting, makes herself known anew. It seems like a new arrival, but she’s been here all along.
Make us aware of your nearness.
Molly Baskette pastors at First Church Berkeley (CA) UCC. She is the author of several books about church renewal, parenting & faith, and spirituality. You can connect with her by subscribing to her newsletter, Doomsday Dance Party.