Scurrying into the subway train, my nerves bristled as people pushed their way into the close quarters. Our bodies were so stuffed into the tube that air failed to blow through the space between us.
Have you ever entered an elevator so crammed full of people, you felt unable to take a deep breath due to concern about touching another person? Maybe you’ve attended a music concert in which fans bumped and squished together to sing, jump, and interact with the musicians? Or, have you ever recognized your personal space encroached upon when conversing with someone, therefore you move to create a necessary gap?
In the past, depending upon one’s culture, individuals determine the comfortable personal bubble of space around them. One’s personal space is the area surrounding themselves which offers peace and comfort. This space breaks down into intimate space (0-2ft.), personal space (2-4ft.), social space (4-12ft.) and public space (12ft.+). Often without realizing it, we move ourselves into the appropriate distance when interacting with others. We display an intuitive understanding of space and people.
Surprisingly, there is a word defining “how far apart we stand” – proxemics. Proxemics refers to the study of personal space. Named by Edward Hall in 1966 proxemics offers just one aspect of human interaction. This term references how people navigate shared space.
Proxemics – The branch of knowledge that deals with the amount of space that people feel it necessary to set between themselves and others.
Nevertheless, in the world today, scenarios and experiences of crammed elevators, bustling amusement parks, packed music concerts, and even teeming church sanctuaries seem like visions from an alternate reality. The phrase “social distance” rose to popularity due to heightened concerns regarding the transmission of COVID.
Apparently 6 feet provides the best distance for safe living. Today, stickers line the floor of grocery stores, taped x’s keep individuals from hovering too closely together, stores monitor the number of patrons within, and every other set of restaurant table and chairs remains marked off from use supporting the mandated separation of 6 feet.
We no longer openly determine personal space or the amount of healthy space between us. Proxemics is now dictated by the authority figures around us. We seem to have lost the freedom to hug, whisper, or “invade” each other’s personal bubble.
That is, unless you are a dog.
This past week Sammy and Emily celebrated their one year wedding anniversary so Gary and I watched their two dogs, Hope and Meshack. Hope and Meshack do not social distance. When I sat on the floor to tie my shoes, both dogs entered my personal bubble with their noses sniffing at my face, attempting to lick my skin. Whenever I sat on the couch, within minutes, the two dogs climbed up and attempted to nestle down next to me or on top of me.
Although Hope weighs nearly 50 pounds, she considers herself a lap dog. Unashamedly, she gets as close as possible, often sprawling her body over mine. Meshack wiggles his way to the top of the sofa and licks any exposed flesh. These family pets refuse to follow the parameters of proxemics and the boundaries of COVID.
Hope and Meshack reveal one desire: to be inseparably connected to their loved ones.
My experience with Hope and Meshack caused me to ponder my journey with God. What proxemics describe my connection with and experience of Jesus?
Do I social distance with God? Or, do I throw out what others dictate and nestle into the arms and shelter of God, getting as close as possible to my Savior?
Ponder your relationship with Jesus. Notice the distance. In which space do you experience God: intimate, personal, social, or public? Are you thriving in the space you find yourself?
God desires intimate and personal space with you. Let Him satisfy you.
- Isaiah 65:24 – Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
- Psalm 139:1-3 – You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
- Jeremiah 31:25 – I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.
Let God’s presence shelter and love you.
- Psalm 61:3-4 – For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
- Psalm 145:18-20 – The Lord is near to all who call on him to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
- Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Invite God into close contact; forget social distance.
- James 4:8 – Come near to God and he will come near to you.
- Hebrews 10:22 – let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings
- Psalm 73:28 – But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Let’s not social distance with God.
Find ways to settle into sacred spaces to enjoy personal space with the Lover of your soul. While outsiders might try to determine our proxemics with people, no one can direct that for our encounters with God. Just like Hope and Meshack, desire inseparable connection and closeness with the One who saves, shelters, satisfies, and longs to socially invade your space with His being.
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Isaiah 41:10 – So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.
Margaret Feinberg. Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God. Brentwood, TN. 2012.
Anne Graham Lotz. The Light of His Presence: Prayers to Draw You Near to the Heart of God. Colorado Springs, CO. 2020.
Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.
Mack Brock. Covered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm5Bnr-mTJI
The Worship Project. Nothing Else (Cody Carnes). https://www.youtube.com/watchv=3LLk0Y9B3fY