I was reminded again recently while grocery shopping with my wife in our local ubiquitous gigantic one-size-fits-all store about how things have changed within my lifetime. As a child I have fond memories of walking the few blocks from my house to our neighborhood grocery market—Lucky Food Store in Greenville, MS. It was small but adequate. Folks frequenting this store knew each other. I could go there unaccompanied at a young age, browse for comic books on the rack while feeling safe and at home. It was a community of sorts.
I felt none of that familiarity in Wal-Mart. No knock on them—it is just the way of things now. It also made me contemplate what is next. Soon it appears the need to shop in the big stores will transition out. On the horizon is online grocery shopping. Need milk and bread? Just order it up on the website and have a drone deliver it to your door. Convenient for sure, but healthy? Maybe not.
What is getting squeezed out in our technology is contact with people, relationship and community. In all of the convenience we are increasingly isolating ourselves.
Everyone seems to have their own personal screen. Just look around the next time you are in a public space. You probably will notice more folks looking down at their phone than interacting with each other. This occurs in homes as well. Vanishing are our dinner times together or even shared TV watching. We are segregating by our own streaming preferences—just me and my screen.
And when was the last time you enjoyed a nice telephone chat with a friend? We text, message, tweet, and maybe still email. They all serve a purpose. Social media is here to stay, but no amount of proficiency with or time spent on social media replaces the benefits of personal contact.
Then there is this. It seems that even the old standby business lunch is fading and being replaced by people eating alone at their desks.
So why my lament about all of this?
God created us not to be isolated, but for community and he created a community for us that we call church. From the beginning God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
Our trending isolationism is not healthy emotionally, physically or spiritually. God’s community was designed for personal relationship, hospitality and fellowship. Those cannot be experienced through a screen.
Sure it gets messy sometimes (just read any of Paul’s New Testament letters), but it is worth the struggle. The community and connectivity we enjoy in Christ is but only a glimpse of the fully realized and shared kingdom of heaven that is to come.
This post is not meant to be a deep study of the dangers of our increasing trend for isolation or a detailed discussion of the need for community together as believers.
Certainly it is a lament—loneliness is more common than we imagine—but it is also meant to hopefully spur us to rethink our own tendency to isolate—if we do.
So, invite someone to lunch. Demonstrate hospitality in your home. Put the screen down and engage someone the next time you are in a public area. Enjoy a meal together with your family. Call someone on the phone just to chat. Start up a conversation with a fellow shopper in the big box superstore. Go to church—regularly. Meet someone new there. Hug an old friend. Celebrate God’s community. Discover the blessings within it.
It is not good for us to always be alone.