I’ve now worked at my “new”-ish job for a year. I’ve reached a strange point in my existence in which my pre-pandemic experience is starting to become less than my current reality. More than half of the past year – seven out of the 12 months – I’ve worked remotely due to COVID restrictions.
I spend most of my days attending meetings on Zoom. It’s an extremely efficient and highly productive way to get through the workday. I love working from home, surrounded by my family, and I enjoy going to work without getting in my car. But working virtually also creates a kind of fatigue that I haven’t experienced in a typical work place.
Along with my co-workers, I try to be as “normal” and relational as possible across the computer screen. I’ve laughed with people over Zoom. I’ve cried with people. I’ve prayed with people. And I’ve celebrated with people virtually.
Still, it can be exhausting. Often, I wanted to break through the virtual barrier to give someone a hug or just to talk face-to-face.
Yesterday, I got to do that. We had an in-person staff meeting back in our office for anyone who was comfortable attending. But even though we were back in a familiar space with familiar people, it wasn’t the same environment that we abruptly left seven months ago.
Like in many companies or organizations, we all sat six-feet apart wearing masks during the entire meeting. Many of our staff members chose to attend from home so we all still turned on our laptops and connected via Zoom. Since I work for a Christian organization that places a high value on worship, we spent most of the meeting in prayer and song.
In an unexpected twist, I sometimes felt a little jealous of the people who were attending via Zoom because they could sing or talk without wearing a mask. I felt insecure about speaking up with all of my co-workers so spread apart and my voice muffled by a piece of fabric. The virtual barrier was partly removed, but I still longed to pull down the mask, sit right next to someone, give a hug or see someone’s smile!
It’s not anyone’s fault that this is how we do things these days. Both situations are hard, and we all have to make the best of our environment.
At the end of the meeting, we sang an old hymn called, “All Creatures of Our God and King.” As the song began to flow, everyone sang louder and with more enthusiasm. The room filled with people crying out the words:
“All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
Oh, praise Him, Oh, praise Him”
In this moment, as I closed my eyes and focused on God, I realized a few things.
First, nothing can stop Him from hearing our worship. Not a mask. Not a computer screen. Not a prison cell. Not a concentration camp. Not a remote island. No matter what happens or where I am or what obstacles I face, He can still hear me. “Oh, praise Him! Oh, praise Him!”
Second, we were literally made to worship God. Most of the time, I’m so distracted with my environment or the people around me or the tasks I need to accomplish that I forget this simple truth. Psalm 145:21 says, “Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.” I think it’s fun to imagine that the other “creatures” of this world don’t have to stop to think about whether or not they want to worship God. Could it be that they are instinctively aware of their creator and are worshipping him in their own way everyday?
My final thought is this… I feel like I’m going crazy at times from the separation from other humans. Whether it’s a physical separation created by a computer screen or a six-foot separation accompanied by a mask, I have a constant urge to break through the barrier. I sometimes sit for hours petting my dog just because it’s so nice to be so close to a living creature!
This distance has made me realize that I often feel that way about God. Trusting in an unseen being is definitely not the most natural thing in the world. 😉 But He promises us that nothing can separate us from Him and His love. Nothing — nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable — absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39, The Message)
As part of my job, I get to help produce a weekly podcast called “Brand New Day,” which features encouraging thoughts and inspiring music from my boss. On tomorrow’s episode, instead of giving wise advice or thoughtful insight on all that is happening in the world, he simply reads Scripture while playing the piano.
When I first heard a preview of the episode, I wasn’t sure if people would think it was a cop out to simply read from the Psalms. Today’s church seems to have mastered the art of turning worship and preaching into something that can feel more like entertainment. How could we put out an episode that was so simple? So basic?
But I realized after my experience yesterday, that it’s actually exactly what I needed to hear.
More worship. More of God’s word. Two things in this world that haven’t changed and can’t be stopped by the barrier of a mask or a computer screen. A virus or an election. Nothing can separate us.