Jesus Withdrew Also

Things I miss and moments of grace.

I love the self-quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic. Really, I do.

Sequestered in my study either reading or writing, my imagination slips through closed doors and roams freely. I love this gift of quiet and solitude. 

Sort of.

Sort of, because I am realizing how shriveled my world has become. Entire parts of my life have disappeared. I’ll share some examples while you think of your own.

Routine: I can no longer chat with Scotty in Costco electronics, or wander the aisles of Best Buy. I can’t visit the office where I work as associate pastor. 

Radius: Since March I have traveled less than 200 kilometres, total, including groceries, pharmacy, Home Depot and the ER for a broken leg. Friends help us shop from time to time, but our range of travel has shrunk.

Regular friends: Earlier, I would visit with 50 people in a week, at least. Now I see my neighbors and we talk across the street. We take turns buying groceries. I’ve been mask-to-mask with fewer than 10 friends in four months. 

Writing: Back in March, I imagined writing an entire new novel in two months and re-editing my first five novels. Surprisingly, with the lack of external stimulus, I have less drama, less joy and less celebration to draw upon – less of everything worth writing about.

Religious life: Harry, a Lutheran, complains that Methodists are too Anglican. From the pew behind, Don snorts disapproval. From the middle pew, I laugh and instruct them on the merits of Reformed theology. But now, from home, how can I worship without Harry’s commentary and Don’s scoffing during worship? Friends improve the worship experience.

Reference Points 

I miss looking up to my pastor, miss his bad jokes, his laugh, his passion, his teaching, his sharing of God’s call in our lives. I miss the pastor looking at me, immediately and directly, sharing God’s word. You don’t get that connection from an iPad. I miss worship; it’s that simple. 

Responsibility: I used to stand in the morning mist of Puget Sound greeting arriving worshipers. Young, old, able, disabled, I greet them all. Mary struggles to walk ten metres to the door. Normally, I walk with her one painful step at a time. A few women may share a hug, and it seems important to them as it is to me. Sometimes a man shares a brotherly shoulder-punch and I know we could share anything life throws our way. I miss the responsibility of greeting in the parking lot, helping people feel welcomed and loved by God.

Relatives: A visit to our daughter’s family was cancelled in March. Facetime pales in comparison to a real hike with the grandsons followed by ice cream at Culver’s and a late evening conversation. It’s been a year, and this was the visit I’d hoped we could build a Bluetooth amplifier kit – like I did with my father. The window of opportunity will close soon.

I love the self-quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic. Really, I do. I love writing. I love quiet. I love sheltering at home. 

Sort of.

Jesus, you know, spent 40 days alone. He prayed alone at times. Wept alone in the Garden of Olives, alone. While with his slow-of-heart Disciples, he must have felt alone occasionally. Imagine how lonely Jesus felt in the middle of a room surrounded by cynical and resistant souls. 

You also know each time the Gospels record the moments of painful isolation Jesus bounced back, not merely to “normal,” but to an otherwise impossible victory. After 40 days, he had crushed Satan’s temptation, endured the Disciples’ weakness, withstood the lonely disapproval of the crowds. Isolation for Jesus was not time lost or wasted; it was preparation for the next moment of grace and victory.


  • David Snapper

    David has been studying growth patterns in the CRCNA since 1976, when he discovered a box of abandoned Jaarboekje dating back to 1901. He’s written an MDiv and an DMin dissertation, as well as an Overture to Synod in 2018, on church growth and decline.

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