I have often envisioned Jesus hugging me, especially on days when things get rough and I am not all that huggable (it happens; ask my husband). It’s always been Jesus taking the lead, smiling and leaning down (Jesus is always taller than me) to scoop me in his arms and hold me tight, and consoling me in the way only he can. I am mostly passive in this imaginary scene. I let him hug me to his chest and I just close my eyes and soak it in. This is a calming image, and it has a healing effect on me, but I think in the future I will imagine something different: I am going to envision myself hugging him back. When I next picture Jesus hugging me, I am going to reach out and slip my arms around his neck and shoulders and pull him even closer. It will be a true embrace (embrace is, not-coincidentally, my word of the year) between the two of us, not a one-sided action on his part only. I will hug him back!
That symbolism of a dynamic, two-person embrace has meaningful application in my everyday spiritual life. Hugging Jesus in return means I will allow him to guide me and lead me through my challenges. It means I believe in his peace and have faith that his plan for me is the best one. And it means I surrender to his will. Not in a feisty, reluctant way, as was the case in my past life, but in an abiding, restful way, safe in his arms and secure in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of his. Hugging him back is like looking directly into his eyes and saying, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
This is an interesting development—I don’t think I was capable of “hugging him back” five years ago. I was too self-sufficient and independent and I was struggling mightily with yielding to God’s plans. In other words, I was being a spiritual brat. The kind who would try to wriggle out of a fatherly hug, not believing or trusting in the forgiveness or mercy or peace that was being offered. I wanted to do my life my way, keeping Jesus at bay: Okay, hug me if you must, Jesus, but let’s move on now. I have other things to attend to.
Ugh. I cringe when I think of my attitude back then. So prideful. So suspicious. So untrusting. But, as Jesus does, he kept on hugging me. He consistently reached out to me, despite my bratty and disrespectful manner. Like a persistent, ever-loving father, he never gave up on me.
As a result, I now want to hug him back. I want to show him how deeply grateful I am that he has transformed my life. I want to get close and stay close and never stray again. I want him to feel my love and devotion and trust. And I want to serve him and help build his kingdom in whatever way he wants me to.
Yep, when Jesus hugs me the next time, he will get hugged in return, with thanks from a recovering spiritual brat. And I think he will lean down and smile when I do.