No social distancing required in the most important relationship of all

COVID-19, with all its adjustments, terrors and sorrows will pass in time. Remember how difficult things were at the start of the pandemic panic, when everyone learned we must keep our distance from anyone not in our own household?

Early in 2020, after the Preacher and I moved nearby them, excited to be living close again, the two youngest grandchildren had one sleepover at Nana and Gampa’s. Little Lois and I baked chocolate chip cookies, oblivious that the monster virus stalking the world would, in less than a week, dramatically alter how even loving families could relate to each other.

When social distancing guidelines took over, we couldn’t enter others’ houses. The grandbeans and I took properly distanced walks on country roads near their home. Windy March marches, actually. Winter still bit hard, and closeness felt infinitely more desirable than distance.

As I arrived at their place for the first time and exited my car, my cookie making helper (who hadn’t seen me for a whole entire week, at least) burst from the back door, her arms wide open to greet me. “Lois!” one of her sisters called sharply, “Don’t hug Nana! You can’t hug Nana! She’s vulnerable!” The child burst into tears. I wasn’t far behind.

On one of those walks, four year old Ezra grew weary and cold (mostly cold). He climbed into the wagon we’d brought just in case. As his older sibling towed him, the tyke sat rigid in place, his lips getting paler and bluer by the moment. A grandmother’s warm embrace could have helped, but warm embraces weren’t advised then, and none of us considered flouting the medical sages. I hate that memory and the echo of his wails ringing in my heart.

When the health advisors trotted out the concept of the “widening your bubble” the Preacher and I happily expanded ours to include the rest of the family and a few good friends. A few months down the pandemic path, hugs happen each time we meet.

The grandbeans understand the seriousness of COVID-19, however. Sherah approached her mother the other day holding an eight foot two by four she’d found while working with her dad. Her gloved hands grasping its centre, she grinned. “This is my new social distancing board, Mama,” she said. She gets it, enough to make a joke. That makes me both sad and glad.

A relationship with God doesn’t require—and never will require—social distancing. At our invitation, He inserts the Spirit of Jesus Christ into our hearts, making us his beloved child. As near as our breath, he walks and talks with us. He joins us around our tables, at our workplaces, in our kitchens and living rooms. As we sleep, he remains watchful. When life chills us to the bone and uncertainty threatens our emotional well-being, he embraces us tenderly.

“God is watching us from a distance,” proclaim the lyrics of a popular song. Not true. God is closer than your very breath. Never forget it.