My office outlawed hugging years ago. I work in a big newsroom, part of a huge corporation, and hugging, in general, is not encouraged at work.

I’m a hugger, so I know all about HR’s specific hug-time allowances, like if someone gets a promotion or if they are leaving the company. You can offer to hug them then, if they’re clearly open to it, but that’s about it.

But then, the pandemic came. Forget hugging. We suddenly weren’t even allowed to stand in the same room. Like the rest of the country, our newsroom was sent home to quarantine in our own houses, hunching over makeshift desks at the dining table or sprawled over one end of a couch. A year into it, I spend about 10 hours a day staring at a handful of glowing screens that ding and ping as information flows in and video calls persist.

How I long for those chats in the hallway or cafeteria, where I would run into someone from another floor and we could spontaneously check in with each other’s lives (Where’s your sister now? How’s your mama?) I never knew how much love you could give or receive in an impromptu chat until they disappeared.

There are some silver linings to life on perma-Zoom. With all the different programs we use, I can basically teleport anywhere, anytime. I spend a lot of the day talking to journalists around the country. We spend a few minutes on business and then often take a little more time to catch up on each other.

Some of those visits turn serious, like when someone’s grandma gets a dire diagnosis. That’s when I remind them that I’m a praying woman and ask if I can pray for them.

Teleporting with Zoom has encouraged me in other ways, too. Hebrews 10:24–25 reminds us to “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I attend GRC’s devotions on the Psalms three mornings a week, and even during the strictest quarantine weeks, I’ve been able to share openly with my Life Group and commune with my Growth Group. We spur one another on and pray together, arguably making the very best use of our glowing screens.

But the best moments of the pandemic are still in person. Our family went back to in-person church as soon as Pastor Peter reopened the doors, because we craved the presence of other believers. Ask my husband, Johnny, about the lengths that GRC has taken to enhance the safety of attending in person, and he’ll tell you all about it. (Fogging! UV lights in the HVAC system! Clorox wipes, galore!)

There’s just something encouraging about seeing other worshippers in real life. When I serve as an usher, it fills me with joy to welcome people as they head to the sanctuary, following the sound of the worship team belting out songs of praise.

As I reflect on Psalm 84:10, which says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

In these (hopefully last) days of the pandemic, just making eye contact in person instead of the dulled contact of a video chat is such a blessing. I smile with my eyes and tap a few elbows, longing for the day when we can openly hug each other in welcome again.

Elisabeth Cordova and her husband, John, have been members since 2018 and lead our Meals Ministry. She won’t hug you unless you are open to it.

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