WHAT ONE QUESTION would you ask God? That’s what I wanted to know. I sent out the word through my social media outlets.
Readers fired back a bunch of questions. But one question, from Janelle Timko, did something to me.
I felt something physical, like a wave passing through me.
A sad wave.
Janelle’s question for God:
May I please have a hug?
I’ve never met Janelle. So I don’t know what was going on in her life when she sent me that question.
But I know about times in my life when I could have used a hug from God.
- When, sobbing, I lay my head on the chest of my dad after he took his last breath. Cancer. Twenty-seven years of it. He died in a bed, in the living room of the house where I grew up.
- When I watched my son, our youngest child, drive that loaded truck away to college. I stood alone at the very end of the driveway, waving goodbye.
- When I stood in front of a judge to speak on behalf of a convicted offender who was hoping for parole. I was out of my element, and terrified that too much depended on my words.
Sometimes we feel all alone and vulnerable…weak enough that someone could tip us over with a toothpick.
A hug would steady us.
But a hug is not to be had. God is not a hugger. Not in the sense of hugs as we know them and prefer them.
Still, God gives them. His version of hugs, anyhow.
One version: invisible.
Another version: physical.
Some hugs live in the realm of faith. They’re invisible, yet real.
- “The Lord is close to all who call on him,” (Psalm 145:18).
- “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath,” (Psalm 34:18).
We can’t always sense God’s presence. In fact, if I’m any kind of a spiritual barometer, we rarely sense his presence. But many Christians choose to believe he’s there.
That’s partly because the Bible says he is.
And it’s partly because every once in a great while—often when we least expect it—he makes his presence known.
Maybe in a coincidence too miraculous to be coincidence.
Maybe in a sixth sense that raises happy goose bumps.
Maybe it’s just a song that sweeps us off our feet and into God’s arms.
Imagine the opposite of demon possession. Think of it as God possession. God’s Spirit inside someone and working through that person to give a soul a hug.
Jesus told his disciples this kind of celestial possession was coming.
He said that after they saw him raised from the dead, “You will realize that I am in my Father. You will know that you are in me, and I am in you,” (John 14:20).
We don’t know how that can be. But many Christians say they have the faith to believe it’s true. And, from time to time, they say they know it’s true because they see the evidence.
Someone gives them a hug at just the right time in just the right way.
I’ve seen it.
- A friend of mine feels impressed to mow the lawn—all summer long—of a young man struggling with multiple sclerosis. That’s how God hugs with sharp objects.
- Another friend tells her Bible study group of a shattering diagnosis. The study stops. Everyone circles her. Hands touch her. Words open heaven. Grace falls from the sky. That’s how God hugs everyone at once.
- I sit in a worship service, thinking of someone I love who has done something shameful and regrets doing it, but must live with the shame of what was done. Suddenly we’re singing “The Wonderful Cross.” And the thought comes to mind that this was the most shameful way to die…and that Jesus understands shame, and died to forgive the ashamed. That’s how God hugs me.
For those of us who believe that prayer somehow makes a difference, why don’t we pray that God gives Janelle a hug?