I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. – 2 Timothy 1:4 (NLT)

Do you remember when the verb “zoom” primarily referred to rapid movement? No longer! Today, Zoom is a household brand name in video conferencing that conjures up memories of a time when we thirsted for human contact amidst a season of wandering in a dry and weary land. During this pandemic, technology has provided a critical lifeline by helping us stay connected when we felt it safer not to gather in person. Families, churches, businesses, schools, the young and the not-so-young alike discovered new, digital means of connecting.

Today, the viral boulder that plunged into the waters of 2020 sending waves in concentric circles across the world may be starting to settle at the bed of the sea, and hope-fully, the waters will begin to still. With various vaccines becoming more widely distributed and the hope of new infections diminishing, we are left to wonder how the ripples created by that 2020 boulder will continue to reflect off the shores of our lives in the years to come.

Perhaps one of the many ripple effects will be our adaptation to technology. While a digital revolution was al-ready taking hold of the world, the global pandemic merely helped tighten its grip. So, perhaps now more than ever, it is important to be discerning about what genuine connection looks like in our digital world.

If the educational system is any indicator, the digital realm has not replaced our most basic need for human contact. While online learning has been a necessary intermediary for schools and students, data from multiple sources are showing widespread performance declines for students utilizing remote learning alone. While the verdict is not entirely in, these early indicators suggest that a digital classroom can supplement but not replace in-person learning.

Human relationships can be supported—even bolstered—by technology, but we were designed by God for in-person interaction. God has gifted us with five senses which enable us to be immersed relationally. Our best digital communication tools (Zoom included) enable us to dip our toes into the shallow end of the pool of mere sight and sound, but the remaining three senses are also vital for full human connection.

While technology can function as an oasis in the wilderness when leveraged properly, if it advances to the exclusion of in-person connection, it becomes like a mirage—giving us an illusion of what our souls thirst for without providing true satisfaction.

This truth has been evidenced not only by the educational system but by multiple studies indicating that the most digitally-connected generations are growing in their vulnerability to loneliness and depression. So, it seems, technology is a wonderful tool for connection when we cannot be together physically, but it cannot close the gap between us by itself. Humanity was designed for incarnation.

As Christians, our theology assists us in making sense of this experience. The Creator and Sustainer of everything demonstrated His great love for us by splashing each sunset with color, dusting the night sky with starlight, directing choirs of songbirds, and gifting the fragrant aroma of springtime flowers. Still, God knew that the beauty of creation, though it does proclaim His glory, could never encapsulate His great Love for humanity. So, the One who knows us more deeply than we know ourselves took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) in the person of Jesus.

It was Christ’s incarnation culminating in His crucifixion and resurrection that closed the gap between God and humanity, making it possible for eternal connection with God. It is Christ’s incarnation that ultimately satisfies our souls’ deepest desires.

If God knew that we needed an incarnational connection to close the gap between God and humanity, we can be confident that incarnational connection is what we need now—even in the digital era. The great tools of the digital world are ripples that will continue to linger off our shores even after the pandemic, but digital connection falls short of replacing our innate need for person-to-person connection. We were made for relationship; we were made for each other.

Let us continue to utilize the best of technology to keep in touch by any and all means, but let us remember how our God sought to connect with us—in the flesh. As the waves of the pandemic continue to ebb, may we come together again to fan into flame the gift of God’s Spirit given to us in this great com-munity of faith.

by Pastor Brad Rogers