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The Power Of a Hug

Hugs are an oft used and welcomed way to greet family and close friends.  They are a non-verbal means of expressing love, closeness, friendship, affection, and appreciation.  A hug at times of sorrow conveys the heart of the individual when words seem to be hard to form.  Sometimes, we just need permission to hug because we never desire to appear to be too forward by giving what was not welcomed.

Once at a young girl’s funeral, I had to make just such a decision. The girl’s father was a member of our church and an air force serviceman. He was an aide on Air Force One and had flown with the president many times. A few generals and lots of upper-crust brass attended the funeral. When it came time to review the open casket at the end of the service, I went to take my customary place at the head of the little casket. Standing in this needy place, I often hug family and friends, particularly at a child’s funeral. There is no kind of occasion that more elicits tears and touching than a child’s funeral.

On this particular occasion I looked at all the generals who were there, and I thought to myself, I must keep my respectful distance here. It is not my place to hug a general.

But as the people began to pass me by, one of the enlisted men, who was a pallbearer, came past me and hugged me. He was weeping, and I hugged him back. The next person by the casket was a general, and when he saw the serviceman ahead of him weeping for the child, tears filled his eyes. When he came to me, I took his hand to shake it, whereupon he reached out, grabbed my hand, and pulled me toward him. I hugged him as he wept. His open humanity gave all the other upper-level military brass permission to hug me.

Hugging generals was never a goal of mine, but I am grateful for the ministry of touch, and I hope you yourselves might realize that touching is one of the senses, and the one that is easiest to appropriate in following your calling. Remember the Prodigal Son; remember the waiting father. When the son returned, here is what the father did:

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him. (Luke 15:20 KJV)

Welcome penitents with touch.

Comfort the afflicted with a touch.

Touch the world, and your compassion will be seen not as the mere pressing of your hand, but a literal passing of the fingers of God on all the woes of humankind.

 (Miller, C. (2011). Letters to a young pastor. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook).