By Pastor Mike Lotzer, April 11 2020
Fitting interconnected little scraps of wood together to make my zoom meetings more visually pleasing for other attendees reminded me of something important: Human beings have an essential need for intentional connection with one another.
The other day I was on zoom, and my friend suggested I consider getting a more interesting background for my video calls than the less than inspiring bare wall behind me. Since the need for video meetings are not going away anytime soon, I took the suggestion to heart and decided to make a background. Using scraps of tongue and groove boards in my garage, I constructed a 2×4 display to hang on the wall behind me in my home office.
First, I cut the scraps of boards into smaller squares. Then I stained each square with one of the handful of colors I had on hand. After the stain was dry, I framed out a sheet of plywood and began the task of fitting and gluing all these little squares together.
As I worked in my garage, neighbors out for a stroll, walked by. They would wave to me from the appropriate distance and offer a muffled greeting from behind their pandemic mask. This almost normal yet also awkward form of communication made me think of how hard it is right now. We all feel increasingly disconnected from other people during this pandemic. The whole physical and social distancing lifestyle has made many of us realize just how essential face to face interactions and human connection matter to our well-being.
As I worked into the evening, fitting the variously sized and stained squares together, I noticed the need to stagger each one. As long as I placed the pieces so that no two squares failed to have an essential degree of connection, the endeavor seemed to work. When I didn’t set a square correctly, in relationship to the others, it became clear that it would fall out when hung on the wall. Who would have thought that working with wood scraps would bring such reminders?
Human beings have an essential need for intentional connection with one another. This need can, and should, happen virtually given our present moment. Yet eventually, we will come to need expressions of relationships that are more real, more “wooden,” you might say. The irony of this project was evident. As I worked, I was ensuring each square had enough of the very interlocking physical connectivity that we are all so profoundly missing.
Tomorrow our church is offering “drive-in-style” Easter services in addition to the regular live stream. This parking lot experience will allow people to see each other through rolled-up windows and listen to the music and message on their FM station. Registration for the first service filled up to capacity soon after it was announced. What would make people navigating a global pandemic want to sit near one another in separate cars with windows rolled up as long as they “feel” somewhat physically connected? An innate, undeniable, and unrelenting need for interlocking dependence and connection.
This pandemic is an opportunity to reset many of our priorities and behaviors. Perhaps one of the most important to consider is how intentional we will interlock and relate to others going forward. This is not always easy. It is worth the effort, however, for when we get this right, we not only become more secure and resilient as individuals; we become part of a collective work of human art.