Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hugs

When I was a little girl, my father used to tell me he had a surprise for me. By the time he got home, I had worked myself into a lather wondering what it could possibly be. It always turned out to be a hug and a kiss, announced like a true salesman, performed like a showman, that left me feeling deflated . . . and maybe a little guilty over my revealed greed for wanting something better.

The other morning, only half awake, Reagan came down the stairs and straight into my arms. She sleep-mumbled into my chest, "You give good hugs, Mom."

"Yeah, hugs are good," my reply came deep from my own satisfaction. And a few really special ones come to mind.

It was just after our wedding and reception. Mike and I had retreated to respective dressing rooms to shed our wedding garb and emerged in the adjoining hallway at the same time, our first moments alone as man and wife. Mike had a card for me that spoke the true feelings he was afraid he wouldn't otherwise have the wherewithal to speak on such an occasion as his wedding day. I was empty-handed, only able to receive, with no gift of my own to give but myself. That hug, alone on the blue carpet of the church foyer, was the best hug I had ever known in my twenty years. Wrapped in the love of youth, enraptured with one another, our future bright before us. It was blissful magic. Achingly satisfying.

Many years later, Derrick was one of the last to enter the funeral home. There wasn't much of a line anymore, only the heavy hum of attempted conversation stilted with shock and grief. The man who had been the boy next door for fifteen years walked straight up to me and wordlessly wrapped me in his arms. Derrick knew. He was orphaned at nineteen. It had been eight years since he lost his father to leukemia two weeks after we graduated from high school together, and his mother one short year later to pneumonia and a broken heart. With his hug, Derrick embraced every broken piece of me and all my utter devastation when we had to put Jeff in the grave. It was the most comforting hug in a night full of them.

Time passed, and our church family no longer wanted Mike as their pastor. He anguished over the pot beginning to let off steam, knowing the boiling over was soon to come. We were anxious to circumvent the natural progression of things, but were wisely advised to let it happen. It needed to happen. The night that it did, I felt peace. I remember chuckling to myself, in the silence of counting votes, wondering if they would allow him time to vacate his office. It was ugly and sad. The tally was taken, the desires made known. And God sealed his will for our lives in that count - we were outnumbered by God's seven, perfect and complete. Boiling over is messy and sensational and hurtful and scary.

Garland was a church member who retreated to Mike's office with us. He was very sorry about it all, and he fumbled around not knowing what to do or say at a time like this, when what belongs safe inside has spilled over into the fire and is burned. When he hugged me I felt safe and protected for a strange moment. Garland was a new christian and not our closest friend, but God used him that night to help me know His strength, His comfort, and that I am secure in Him. In an instant fear melted, and God is in the mess.

Yep, Reagan, hugs are good indeed. I'm glad you learned that at such a tender age. It has taken me much longer.



He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
~Psalm 91:4


When we are bursting with youth's hope, when we are crushed by life's tragedy, when we are tempered by failure's sear. Always, there is rest under His wing.



Today, I am writing in community with Ann Voskamp and friends, discussing the spiritual practice of rest.
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