I’ve never been much of a hugger. Ok, I should correct that. I really like hugs, I’m just not a fan of long hugs.
But coming from a family who is mercilessly affectionate, where cuddles, kisses and ‘I love yous’, were dispensed like sweeties at a fairground, over the years, I’ve learned how to enjoy a decent, warm embrace.
These days, it’s much more of a natural response when arriving or departing anywhere; everyone I know gets a short, functional but affectionate hug.
I call them power hugs. I feel like I get all the emotional nutrition I need from a quick embrace and peck on the cheek. I don’t need to slowly extract all the goodness from a prolonged squeeze. I give a hug and then I indicate I’m done by stepping back. My sister in law told me not too long ago, that I ‘tap out’. I hug and then I tap the other person’s back as if to say, ‘ok, you can let go. I’m done with you now’.
As a child, my family would be fortunate if they even got a quick squeeze. There are pictures of me grimacing, trying to wriggle away as relatives came in for a ‘proper hug’. It’s a standing joke in our family. Paula likes hugs, just don’t hug too long.
Recently, I was sitting in the quiet, reading my Bible and praying. I’d read something really powerful on the subject of worry and how it can invade our thought processes without us realising it.
I sat in the quiet, asking God for wisdom for the day ahead and then just as I felt this lovely sense of God’s presence, my brain went, ‘right, that’s it now…I’m done’.
As clear as anything, I felt God say to me, ‘don’t tap out’.
Just like the hugs where I indicate I’m done, I was doing the same with God.
Just when it got special, when he was starting to show me new things, my practical, busy, got-stuff-to-do-side, kicked in and before you could say ‘Amen’, I was off and on to something else.
There was a woman in the Bible like that. You probably know the story of Martha and Mary.
Both loved Jesus, both wanted to be near him. But Martha wanted to keep busy and do stuff for him. Mary just wanted to sit there, to listen, to absorb his presence, to enjoy the ‘hug’.
One got her fulfilment in doing.
The other got her fulfilment in being.
There’s value in both.
Sometimes we need to ‘do’, keep busy, get the job finished, tidy up. But we also need to make time to just be.
Even if it’s just 5 minutes, while we wait for an appointment, while we’re stood in a queue, or (if we have longer) to sit with God and look out a window (without feeling the need to instagram it). It’s learning how to do nothing, to not fill every second with activity, to quietly listen (instead of stressing over whether we’re listening the ‘right way’).
For me, I often show my love and concern by doing things. I’m the one whirling about like a dervish, trying to do all the stuff that others can’t do. Even just yesterday, a family member said to me, ‘stop trying to organise this…relax, we’ve got it’. It makes me aware that constant activity can be an emotionally exhausting merry go round and in the process, I can forget how to sit down, how to be cared for, how to receive.
Even with God, I can easily fall into the grace-less habit of reading a set amount of chapters, carefully highlighting the important bits, praying for the exact amount of allotted time (and all the people I said I’d pray for) as though I must do stuff, in order to earn God’s grace and mercy.
But God often asks us to be still, to wait patiently, to quietly enjoy what he’s saying, to jump off the dizzying roundabout of endless activity.
He asks us to tune in and stay there and not be quite so quick to tap out.