Going to the shops has never been more complicated. It was bad enough in the past. I have been known to complete a full weeks shopping at Aldi, put it all through the checkout, only to discover that: somewhere in the child haunted madness of my journey out of the house, I have neglected to pick up my wallet.
The shame that I felt having to repack everything whilst offering groveling apologies to angry shoppers queuing behind me still causes me to cringe to this day.
Then a furious drive back home (breaking several traffic laws) as I screeched to a halt in front of the house, ran in like a dervish shouting incoherently to my wife before snatching up the errant wallet and hurtling back to the supermarket before my frozen fillet of fish had had time to defrost.
But now it's even worse, as well as the 'laundry list' of items that one is required to remember on leaving the house; we have to remember new stuff.
Car keys 'check'.
'Covid-19 face mask for all relevant members of family 'check',
Alcohol gel 'check'.
Sense of mounting anxiety at having to be around human beings that I don't know, 'Great big check'.
Back when I first learned to drive I laboured under the misapprehension that I was a good driver. Several years (and a fair number of bodywork repair later); I now start all journeys behind the wheel with a heartfelt plea to the Almighty that everyone in the car will arrive safely at their destination. Now we also have to 'plead the blood' over Covid-19. What used to be a quick five second 'bless up' is in danger of becoming a medium length prayer meeting. I have to start allowing additional journey time to take into account all the binding and loosing that we need to do before I start the engine.
Even prior to the pandemic, the idea of standing too close to people has never filled me with excitement. Now however, things have progressed to a whole other level.
Heaven forbid that someone in the shop coughs or clears their throat near me. I have gotten really good at holding my breath whilst leaning past other shoppers in order to grab my Marmite from the shelf that they are blocking. The positive side of Covid has been that I have had the chance to read multiple books whilst stuck in queues. I am currently working my way through the Wheel of Time (a fourteen book fantasy epic).
But there is one person that I don't want to be socially distanced from. One person that I am desperate to be close to. Close enough to share air. Close enough that when He exhales, His breath goes straight into me and settles deep within my lungs. Close enough for me to hear the pattern of His heartbeat, hear what He whispers too quietly to be heard by any but His closest friends.
And yet, so often I find myself socially distancing from Jesus. Masking up and scrubbing away with my alcohol gel.
It never happens on purpose. I don't wake up one morning and think, 'Hey, I'm way too close to Jesus. Better create some barriers in case what He has done starts to affect my life'. No, it was more insidious than that. Slow and gradual. Like the frog in the gently warming water. Unaware that he is being cooked.
There was a time when I was very close to Jesus. Close enough that I could sense his thoughts in my deep heart. But somehow, I have forgotten my name. Somehow, life has crept in with it's shopping lists & bags for life & discount voucher schemes & hurt. Somehow the closeness I used to feel has gone. Jesus is way more than two metres away.
I'm still doing the stuff, still going to church, still trying to pray in the morning. Still working through my bible but it has become 'custom and practice' instead of vivid and transformational.
When this happens, it's time to take the mask off. Time to be honest with the Holy Spirit about what's going on.
Close the distance that has grown up around my soul and declutter my life. Admit that some of the programmes I'm allowing myself to watch in the evening 'just to relax' are not what the Holy Spirit feels comfortable around. Admit that I have become frightened of failure where I used to be fervent in faith.
Time to return to my first love. Maybe fast a little bit. Maybe cry a little bit. But as the woman with the issue of blood said to herself. 'If I can just touch Him, it's going to be alright'.