So there are some things that just keep me awake at night. They go round and round in my head and there is no getting rid of them until they spill out onto the page. I have gone over and over this in my mind for weeks, months even and written these words out in rough many times. What I am going to say is not intended to offend anyone or upset anyone, just to provoke thought and discussion.
When did you last have a hug? A really good, bear type, wraps you in love, type of a hug?
Hugs are so important I think. I cannot tell you how long it is since I had a proper good hug. Too long for definite.
I miss my Dad’s hugs enormously. He was not a big man, but he gave good tight hugs. I miss that, like a physical pain. I have had some hugs since he died, but not many and nowhere near as good! How about you? Who gives you a hug? Your spouse, kids, parent – but who really hugs you? It is a strange one, there are so many different types of hug; polite, how are you hugs; nice to see you hugs or goodbye hugs. Friendly hugs and loving ones. Some people like hugs, some people don’t. Some like some types of hugs and not others.
Medical studies have shown that hugs are actually good for us. Hugs can boost dopamine levels making us feel happier and warding off depression. It can decrease cortisol levels which can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. They can increase serotonin levels and make us feel less lonely, even relieve pain by blocking pain pathways. It can also seriously improve someone’s day!
In my previous church, everyone greeted everyone with a hug. In my current church it is all smiles and hand shakes. I often feel like I don’t fit in, I definitely don’t often feel loved. Many of the people there are still strangers to me, though I try to make conversation. Yet, we sit together in the same room week after week. I do try to reach out and get to know people, but it is not easy. It is certainly not within me to go up to someone and say “I really need a hug today” and I am sure I’m not alone.
What exactly is it I wonder that we are afraid of? What makes us avoid hugging? In a world where ‘touch’ can be a dirty word, are we afraid of accusation/litigation?? That we are going to be wrong to love or reach out to someone? As a church how can we show love if we are perceived as distant, unfeeling and disconnected. We should be a ‘people’, a ‘family’, a collective. People who reach out – not just to each other but to the wider world.
They talk about it a lot at church; how we are a family, BUT do we behave like that?Sometimes we get it right, but sometimes we get it wrong (in my opinion anyway). At the moment it feels like we are not getting it right within ourselves so how is that perceived by the outside world I wonder?
I am reminded as we enter Lent of the approaching Good Friday – how we as a Church (or group of churches) parade through the streets of our town remembering Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and proclaiming his love. But how are we then perceived by the outside world? They may be curious but how can they engage with something that is so alien to them? A bunch of religious weirdos carrying a cross and singing songs and talking strange words they know nothing off.
Would we not be closer to God’s message and Jesus’ example if we stood on the streets with a sign saying ‘free hugs’ and reaching out to love people. If we as a church, cannot reach out to the broken, the depressed, the marginalised in our own congregations; how then can we reach the people on the streets? The people who most need a touch from God? The people who most need God are those that others reject. We need to be doing face to face talking (not just on Facebook and the like), and yes dare I say it – reach out and touch these people. Yes, real one to one body contact. If Jesus could reach out to the lepers, the prostitutes, the dirty … then so can we, and we should.
I can go to an interview and have someone shake my hand, it is formal, not a sign of love. A stranger can shake a hand, a stranger can give a hug. Family don’t shake hands, family give hugs. The world needs a hug today.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great to show people the church outside it’s doors. That it still exists, even thrives. But they need to know how it relates to their lives today. Going out on the streets on Good Friday should be a part of that. People should know what Easter is all about, when they are out doing their shopping. To remind them again that their time off work is about Jesus and his great sacrifice for all mankind. But, how much more should we be shouting of the resurrection, of the living God, risen and alive today. To celebrate, to be joyful; so they don’t see Christianity as some dead, dying religion, full of boring, dull people. We need to think of the image we portray to people. We need to show the happy side too.
So family, will you be bold and brave and see who you can hug today. You never know they may really need it.