What 40 years as a pastor have taught me: Hugs are OK (part III)
This may seem to be a strange follow up to the first two posts in this “What I have learned” series, which were about Ideals and Reality and Knowledge, but this lesson has been every bit as important to my growth as the others (which I found much more naturally inclined to pursue).
I will never be a “touchy-feely” person. I mean that description in all of the best ways. But, it will never be who I am.
There were very few “huggers” in the world I grew up in, although several older female family members were big on hugs. For some reason I was always uncomfortable with even those hugs.
Now, try to imagine my chagrin when the person with whom I was leading during the embryonic days of New Covenant began to greet me each time he walked into my house (or met me anywhere else) with a big hug. He (Jim) was big and tall; I was short. He was more emotive, in addition to being incredibly smart and gifted; I was cool. I wanted to run! I was by nature, and then by Bible College and Seminary training, a “do not touch” person and pastor. Other than the occasional hand shake I did not touch, let alone hug anyone but my wife and my children—and certainly not another man. And, truth be told, at that time in life, I did not hug my wife or my children nearly often enough. Since so many good things were happening in our new joint search for God and for a way to be genuinely a community where God could be present and bless, I “endured” Jim’s hugs, and I “suffered in silence.”
How strange to look back now and realize that I owe Jim such a huge debt. (Actually, I owe Jim for many, many other blessings through the years as well.) Most people who know me now think of me as a “hugger.” I am. If you enjoy that part of who I am, you too owe Jim a big debt. (If you do not like that part of who I am, feel free to blame Jim!) Even more amazing, my big, strapping 6’4” son is known all over the world by his friends as one who shows his love and caring by giving a big warm hug. My entire family and the many friends of my family all around the world owe Jim a debt.
Don’t hear me wrongly. I am quite aware that it is important to respect both people’s personal boundaries and also appropriate sexual boundaries in our hugs and touches. I have always attempted to take this reality very seriously—and for good reason. I have seen far too many people, including far too many pastors, fail to do so. And, I have seen the devastating results of these indiscretions in the lives of many people, many relationships, and many churches.
What I am saying is that there is a very blessed way to share the touch of God, as well as the touch of love and caring and joy in community life. Left to my own devices, I would have missed it.
So, let me say for the world to hear: I appreciate and am blessed by each of you who give me a hug, touch my shoulder with caring, or lay hands on me and pray for me to be blessed. And, along with the many other things I thank God for blessing my life with through Jim, I thank both God and Jim for teaching me that “Hugs are OK!”
As always, if you have any thoughts, comments, or questions about this post, or if there is another topic you would like me to explore in a future post, please leave a comment. I always enjoy your questions and thoughts. / Ron