This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.

Romans 13:6-7 NIV

We are in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation right now. One of the ads on the radio talks about how people in Ireland love to touch, hug and connect. But in this time and season we have to disconnect and keep separate. It does not feel right, it is not natural for us to be in solitary confinement.

We will hunker down, we will try to survive, we will be compliant. But then something irks us, something does not compute for us. Whether that is not being allowed in a park, or someone gets in our face in a supermarket. We get irked. We get annoyed and we want to tear down the walls of self-isolation and strike back.

Paul spent a lot of time imprisoned. Some of the jails sounded horrible – poor sanitation (no loo roll) and others were OK. He was in a house or a nice room in a governor’s house. BUT he was not allowed to leave. Now more than at any other time we can all relate to Paul and his captivity. Because we are captive and maybe, just maybe we can learn how to be in captivity from Paul and not the world.

Paul talks about respect, honour, keeping the law and paying bills. He talks about Jesus and following him, how to do and be church and lots of other things. But when we consider that during this time he was imprisoned doesn’t it suddenly come into view differently. We now have a new lens to look through. The lens of captivity.

Researchers have noted that isolation can cause psychological symptoms of depression, insomnia, stress, low mood, irritability and emotional exhaustion. Also anger. There are negative effects of knowing someone who has Covid-19 including fear, grief, guilt and confusion.

Quarantine can have substantial and wide-ranging negative psychological effects.

“Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects.”

The Psychological Impact of Quarantine and How to Reduce It: Rapid Review of the Evidence
Samantha K Brooks, Rebecca K Webster, Louise E Smith, Lisa Woodland, Simon Wessely, Neil Greenberg and Gideon James Rubin
The Lancet, 2020

Routine is one of the best ways to get through a time of segregation. As soon as I got back to Kerry I fell into a routine. I got up at the same time and went to bed at the same time. I opened my day with prayer, reading the Bible, more prayer, look at the news and pray some more. I continued to study completing reflections and assignments and I took time to exercise and spend time with my dog.

I had routine down. And it was good but I began to miss chatting to people. A lot of my time usually is spent engaging in faith conversation with strangers. So yesterday I took my dog on a neighbourhood walk and met people I had not seen for years. Lorelei (my dog) enjoyed being the focus of attention as we engaged with our neighbours. I also began to think of the people I used to know who had no church connection and so I began texting them, reaching out and asking them how they were in this season. One person was reflecting on the loss of a mutual friend two years ago and was grateful they did not have to go through this. Another suggested we go for a social distance walk.

I don’t know how long I will be in Kerry so have been reticent about creating new connections. But I have been home for 26 days now and I feel compelled to connect. There are people I have always kept a distance from and maybe now is the time to reach across that distance. I feel the need to honour this neighbourhood and respect my neighbours.

Paul demonstrated the love of God in every word he wrote and every time he spoke, in every action and thought. He did this whilst in captivity, under house arrest or thrown in jail. He did it humbly and with integrity. Not a bad model to follow.