Separate But Together

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Pre-coronavirus, I went grocery shopping once a week, but once this virus began spreading through the nation and my state, I dialed it back to once every two weeks to limit the number of times I had to leave my home. I go to the same grocery store at the same time like clockwork; I have to follow a routine for my fridge to remain appropriately stocked.

A few weeks ago, on my bi-weekly trip, I showed up a little early because I knew they regulate the number of customers in the store at any given time. People line up outside, wrapping onto the sidewalk, each person waiting patiently for their turn. I strolled up to my spot in line and began to watch those around me. Some people were really antsy and could not keep still. Others spent their time waiting in line staring off into the distance, engrossed in their phone, or chattering with the person they came with. We were all standing a few feet apart from each other yet we were together in the line. We all waited with one goal in mind: get our groceries while honoring others.

As I stood there, I couldn’t help but wonder if how I was feeling waiting in the line was similar to how the early church felt.

Learning From the Early Church

After the Holy Spirit explodes onto the scene in the book of Acts, the Church is empowered. The Gospel begins to expand through the known world. Disciples begin venturing out and spreading the gospel to those who would listen—they were separate but were working together toward one goal.

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:1,4 (NIV)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Greetings.” James 1: 1 (NIV)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” 1 Peter 1:1-2 (NIV)

woman reading Bible
Think about it! These men were physically separated without the aid of cell phones or social media to keep in touch. I can’t help but wonder if their shared mission and vision encouraged them during times of loneliness. When they had a difficult day of persecution, did the knowledge of the global Church strengthen them? Did their shared mission help spur them on in the face of doubt? Did their knowledge that they were part of a family, though distanced, help them in difficult times? I like to think so.

We Are Not Alone

There’s something really comforting about someone who’s willing to say “me too”. Whenever I have the courage to share a struggle and someone returns a “you’re not alone,” I breathe a sigh of relief. Moments standing in a socially distant line remind me that I am not alone even though I spend my time physically isolated. Reading the stories of the early Church reassures me that God is still on the move even in desperate times.

I’m grateful that we are united with God and with each other even while separated. It will be nice when we are able to all gather together again but, until then, maybe the knowledge of our combined experience and common goal will be encouragement enough. I’m thankful for examples like the apostles who have gone before us and are sweet reminders of God’s grace and continual presence. While we may still be separate, we are still together.

Sarah is an entrepreneur and published author, currently living in Dallas, Texas. Her dreams include founding businesses, giving strategically, and sharing art with the world. And her life motto is: Every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is worthy of being shared.

You can find more of her writing on her blog or connect with her on social media.