The circuit breaker has caused many introverts—like me—to come out from our shell.
A friend of mine who is usually holed up at home and will not step out of her house unless absolutely necessary recently told me, “I have been in self-imposed isolation mode since end-February (or maybe a few years ago) . . . I hope to reacquaint myself with the outside world sooner, not later.”
Another who used to enjoy working from home commented, “I can’t wait to go back to the office.”
What’s happening? Why are those among us who have preferred quiet solitude yearning to meet up with friends and colleagues all of a sudden?
Perhaps a controversial social experiment conducted by Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century can shed some light. This medieval monarch wanted to know if there was such a thing as a “natural language”. He reasoned that if infants were to be sheltered from the sound of the human voice, they would eventually speak this natural tongue. So he hired wet nurses sworn to absolute silence. While the babies were cared for, they did not hear a spoken word, nor were they cuddled or shown any expression of love. Within several months, all the babies died.
People aren’t only biological beings; we’re also social beings. Without social interaction, we cannot live. We’re made for relationships, and we need them to survive.
But the irony is this: we crave for relationship when it’s missing, but often shun it or take it for granted when it is in abundance. Why? Is it because it’s so easy to rub each other the wrong way? After all, relationships bring out both the best and worst in us.
In Romans 14–15, Paul addresses the essence of what it means to live in community. At the time, Christians in the church in Rome were clashing over whether or not they should follow various practices related to Old Testament law. But Paul tells them to take a different approach: instead of criticising each other, look to Jesus’ example of self-giving love as the model to emulate.
In Romans 15:1, he says: “We who are strong must be considerate.” The word “must” here means more than just “we should”. In Greek, it means “to owe a debt”. The strong—those who feel confident in their knowledge about certain disputable matters—owe it to those who are less certain or fearful about whether they are doing the right thing to bear their weaknesses.
Christ’s example showed us that the strong are not to please themselves, but to look out for their neighbour’s good and edification. When Paul says “accept each other” (v. 7), these words mean, “Keep on accepting or receiving one another.” Just as Jesus receives us—even though we’re not perfect—we need to receive others.
The churches of the New Testament were imperfect, made up of imperfect people. But that didn’t stop them from gathering regularly, united by their need for their perfect Saviour and Lord—and for one another.
Are you looking forward to meeting up with friends, family, churchmates, and colleagues again? Or is it a mixed feeling, as it is for me? We look forward to the fellowship, but we know that soon we will want to withdraw into our shell again.
So, as the circuit breaker restrictions get slowly lifted in the coming weeks, perhaps it is an opportunity to do some reflection and prepare ourselves to meet others as a better person, with a new mindset and attitude. Here’s some questions I’m asking myself:
- Why do I want to meet up with people? What does the Bible have to say about this desire?
- What new attitudes should I embrace to help me treasure people and relationships more?
- What will I do differently when people irritate or hurt me?
Meanwhile, until we can meet again face to face (in person, and not via teleconferencing), I’m determined to step out of my comfort zone to connect with family and friends by . . .
- Thinking about churchmates whose job may be affected or feeling isolated by Covid-19, and dropping them a message or giving them a call.
- Having video chats with my best friend to talk about our day and have a good laugh together.
- Calling friends and family on their birthday to wish them personally, instead of just dropping a casual message on social media.
- Emailing friends whom I hope to get reacquainted with or to know better.
Friends, I hope to meet you in a restaurant, church, or office when we are able to do so—and I hope to do this as a better friend, churchmate, and colleague!