Covid-19 has changed our lives in big and small ways. For those who have lost loved ones, their lives will never be the same. Others who have been infected with the virus recover but may struggle for weeks and months afterward to regain their health. Some have been hit hard economically and struggle to pay their bills and home school their children. For the rest of us, we just miss the ordinary things of life. We miss the freedom to go where we want, when we want, to eat in restaurants and attend church services. We miss large family gatherings, live arts performances, sports and community events; it’s a long list.
What I miss most is hugging people. I’m a hugger from way back – anyone, anytime, anywhere. When I realized that we are Christ’s body on this earth and can show God’s love to others by being his arms, I became a hugging fanatic. People need human touch, but more importantly, they need to know the God of Love who reaches for them.
We once took an arts team to Madagascar to present a show called The Story of Love. We performed on city stages, in orphanages, churches, remote villages, and the homes of the wealthy. We made many lasting memories, but there is one that stands out.
A friend in Antananarivo worked with the city’s homeless population. He had no center of operations and no church building, so he walked the streets, helping those he could. At least 10,000 people were living in Tana’s streets at the time, with no government assistance, eating out of the city’s dumpsters.
One afternoon, our friend found a church willing to open their doors to these least of the least and invited us to minister to his congregation. When our team arrived, the room, including the balcony, was already packed with men, women, and children. They started to sing a familiar hymn. I can still see the tear-streaked face of one man holding a small child tightly in his arms as his wife leaned her weary head on his shoulder.
We had brought baskets stuffed with two hundred large loaves of delicious Malagasy french bread, filling the sanctuary with the fragrance of fresh bread. After encouraging them with God’s word and spending time together in worship, we invited them to line up outside of the church, where our team formed a sort of human tunnel. We planned to show God’s love, not only through giving them bread to eat but by hugging each and every person as they came through the line.
After a while, we began to notice people circling back and re-entering the line. We asked our friend to explain that there was only enough bread for each person to take one loaf, but he told us they weren’t coming back for more bread. They wanted more hugs. No one touches them, he said. They could have hurried away to eat what was in their hand, but they were more hungry for love than food.
We are all born hungry, but it is a hunger born in heaven that can only be satisfied with the Bread of Heaven. We were all born craving love, but it is a craving that can only be satisfied by God, who is Pure Love.
We won’t be passing out hugs for a while, but there are other ways to express God’s unconditional love. We can mourn with those who mourn, intercede for those who are struggling, and share what we have. It can be as simple as an encouraging text, a thoughtful gift, a heartfelt prayer, words that bring peace, or any small, intentional act of kindness, forgiveness, or mercy.
God, please show us creative ways to offer your embrace to a hurting world. And for ourselves, we ask that you quiet our anxious souls, give us rest, and teach us to trust you for everything we need as we fall into your loving arms.
His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you.
You can run under his covering of majesty and hide.
His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.
What a God you are!
What a secure shelter for all those who turn to hide themselves in you!
You are the wrap-around God giving grace to me.
Psalms 91:4; 18:30 (Passion Translation)