When is a hug more than just a hug? Last month I had some encounters that were amazing and I learned more about a simple hug. It was my monthly speaking engagement at Restore Hope. I love that name, “Restore Hope”. People come to Restore Hope who are having a hard time making ends meet. They need food or clothing or help with their rent. They may be out of work, the working poor with not enough money to cover basic essentials, overwhelmed with medical bills or on the verge of being homeless. Whatever their situation, there is a sense of desperation, they need some hope.
No one is required to attend chapel. They are invited to attend.
During my talk I shared that I’m known for my hugs. People at my church sometimes line up for a hug. I shared that a few weeks before I had given a lady a hug at church. She said, “I just love your hugs! And that smile! Those eyes sparkle with joy!”
“You’re looking at someone who has spent a great portion of her life in depression,” I replied. “I was diagnosed with four different kinds of depression and the joy you now see is because the Lord had healed my heart.”
This lady has known me for about six years, yet, she laughed and said, “I would have never known that you ever suffered from depression!” We both agreed that our God is amazing.
As I shared with the audience at Restore Hope how Jesus came to heal the broken hearted, to comfort those who grieve, to provide for those who mourn, to take the ashes of our broken, messed up lives and turn them into a thing of beauty, to give us a garment of praise in exchange for depression and despair, [Isaiah 62:1-3] every eye was upon me as they listened intently.
It is the custom at Restore Hope that after the message has been given anyone who wants prayer may come and receive prayer or they may wait until they fill out their paperwork, then fill out a request to see the chaplain and receive prayer later.
“I don’t want prayer, I want one of your hugs,” a tall lady announced. I gave her a warm hug. “Oh, that felt so good. Just what I needed. Thank you!”
To my surprise, no one wanted prayer. They wanted hugs! And so the hugging began.
As each person was hugged, they smiled and thanked me. I was smiling too. It does a body good to be hugged. It nourishes the soul. So many of us do not have human touch for days or weeks at a time. Touch is healing. I was being blessed as well.
Thinking that I was not needed further I stayed in the chapel and visited with the chaplain assistant.
About ten or fifteen minutes later an elegantly groomed woman came in the chapel doors. About half way across the room she extended her arms towards me, smiling, and walked briskly towards me. I instinctively extended my arms towards her and we ended up in a wonderful hug. Hugging her was like hugging my long lost sister. (She wasn’t in the audience when I spoke, so this was a mystery.)
This lady (who I will call Linda) was there with her sister who was going through treatment for cancer. Linda had lost her high paying job in another state. Unemployed, she was available to help her sister who was in the last stages of cancer. Linda’s sister was not able to work and was needing help with her rent. While we talked, the sister was being seen by the social workers and counselors at Restore Hope.
Linda shared with me the things she had learned through her unemployment about the true value of material things. For too long she had focused on acquiring and spending money. Now she was on a spiritual journey to get back in a walk with Jesus. She was spending time meditating and praying. She was learning to forgive those who had hurt her.
As she shared, I was able to encourage her and pray with her. Then the sister came in and Linda said, “This lady will pray for you!”
Sister was very open to prayer. Sister was very ill and was wearing a mask to protect herself from being infected by others. I asked what she desired me to pray for and as she shared I felt such love and compassion towards her. After I prayed, each lady reached up and was given a hug. Not just a shrug of a hug – we swapped a warm, “holding you like my sister, I want all the best in the world for you,” hug. They had tears in their eyes and thanked me. They were smiling through their tears.
Again, I thought I was through for the day, but as I walked through the lobby where people sat at tables, I was asked for prayer. I gave prayer and hugs.
I left there with my love tank full. I had received as well as given. Thank you, Lord, for simple hugs.
Sometimes, we need a hug more than we need a prayer. A hug can be a healing balm to the soul. Sometimes . . . a hug restores our hope.