Awkward Hugs and God’s Embrace

I am an awkward hugger.

In the short span of a hug, questions fly—millions of thoughts wreaking havoc in my mind:

Do my arms go over or under? Or do I do the side hug? What on earth, do I do with my hands? Do I turn my head? Ugh. Do I smell bad? No? Good. Yes, this is good. Nope. Too long. How long do we hug? How do I end the hug? Who is supposed to end the hug first? Am I supposed to be thinking this much?

 It appears that I can’t seem to simply rest in an embrace.

If you ever see me at church, you can see my social coping mechanisms at play. If I’m holding a coffee cup or my phone in my hands: boom! Instant barrier. I can hug without worrying about my arms or hands. Better yet, if you see me constantly on the move, it’s because you can’t hug a moving target!

My social anxieties aside, my confession is this: I crave this closeness. The intimacy of comfort, trust, and affection. But sometimes, I forget how to draw near. To others. To God.

Two decades ago, on a perfect sunny day in July, one person ruined hugs for me. As a result, the affection I crave is the one I have come to approach with trepidation and fear. I hesitate before I hug, measuring the level of trust before I decide to feel.

But, in the months of loneliness that followed, God met me. He drew me closer and closer until I accepted this truth.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;
You destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

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.

-Psalm 73:25-28

It is good to be near to God. My soul can be at rest in his presence. And this is the story I can tell.

In that moment, when I chose God because he first chose me, I drew close to Him, leaned into the love of his Son, and heard the gentle whisper of his Spirit. I let that truth wrap around me, and was forever changed.

I thought about that moment a lot this week. In this current season of uncertainty, I have forgotten the simple goodness that is drawing near to God.

Sometimes I read the Bible and I only see ink and paper. Sometimes when I pray, I don’t stay still enough to let him hold me. And even when I attend Sunday services, I sometimes become numb to the routine, losing the wonder of adoring Him in the presence of my fellow church family.

In these periods of struggling, I forget the affection I once craved.

Can I cloak myself in wonder whenever I approach God, even if it is through a path I’ve tread many times before? When I open God’s word, can I remember his love? When I sing songs of praise or give gifts of thanks, can I remember that God is pleased when I think of him? When I reach out to others in love or extend a hand with grace, can I be open to what God is doing to my heart?

As it turns out, I need to repeatedly re-learn how to draw near to God.

Here are a few ideas I’m trying out this week:

  1. Pray before reading God’s Word.
    Father, you alone are Good. Remind me of who you are before I read about what you have for me today in Your Word.
  2. Sing songs of praise. Even if it is the same chorus on repeat, let the words speak truth to me before the lies I tell myself dare to take root.
    There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain. To break every chain. To break every chain.
  3. Give. Forgive. Repeat.
    Even when it hurts, especially when it’s hard. But it is worth it, Lord, if doing so draws me closer to you.

I believe this task of drawing near to God is worth practicing. It is worth learning once again.

I will be awkward. I will want to wander. But God desires to show affection to his Daughter, and because of his unfailing love, I will rest in His embrace.