You may have noticed that I tend to be a hugger. I do not think I was born that way. I really believe it was a decision that my brother and I made many years ago - at his suggestion, I might add. And I am glad he did.
However, hugging seems to be hardly mentioned in Scripture. The NIV only uses the word once when it says, "They are drenched by mountain rains and hug rocks for lack of shelter." (Job 24.8), and in the other translations I generally use I cannot find it at all! Finally I went the The Message paraphrase and found "An honest answer is like a warm hug" (Proverbs 24.26), but instead of "warm hug" the Hebrew actually says "kiss on the lips".
While there certainly is such a thing as the occasional "group hug", generally a hug (or embrace - a word that does appear in Scripture) has the appearance of being a one-to-one activity. It is a bonding together, a physical expression of unity and care. It communicates warmth and acceptance, often allowing pain to be released and relief received. However, it has been my observation that this is more likely to occur in the setting of a "triple-hug".
This week I hugged a variety of people I had never met before. I also hugged quite a few I have known for a long time. Some of the hugs were at church. Others at a funeral home. They took place in my home, and the homes of others, too. All, I believe, were "triple-hugs"!
What do I mean by "triple-hug"? It has to do with some words found in Ecclesiastes. "Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts ... a cord of three strands is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4.9, 12) Healing and hope are found in hugs that have this third strand - the love of God in Christ Jesus - wrapped around the two that embrace.
The hug - the embrace - we truly need is the one that comes from Jesus. He is the one who has come into our lives to absorb our pain and brokenness. In his embrace we receive the relief and strength we need. Psalm 85 says that when we listen to what God says, "Faithful love and truth join together; righteousness and peace embrace." (Psalm 85.8-10) His warm embrace comes to us in his Words spoken at our baptism ("in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" - another "triple-hug"), and in this act his righteousness and peace are wrapped around us. In this gift we receive the eternal relief we truly need.
Allow me to make two suggestions for you as you go about your day. First, recognize that, from the moment you rise until the moment you fall asleep, Jesus will be hugging you - holding you in his arms that are filled with faithful love, righteousness and peace. And second, look around for those who need what you have received, and find a way to share it with them.
A hug might be just what they need ... a triple-hug, that is. **