I put my arm around the eight-year-old camper who stiffened beneath my touch. In an instant the image of my eight-year-old self flashed before me. Like the foster child beneath my arms, I too had learned to resist affection at a young age
No doubt the reason for this is the fact that I grew up in boarding school. My mother often recalls her visits and how her little girl stiffened within her loving embrace. Perhaps it was my way of punishing my parents, I cannot say, but I do know resistance became my standard response. I learned to deprive myself of that which I longed for the most.
As a young adult I learned about other embraces, and I reached out to other lonely souls hoping to find one to whom I could cling. But the flirtations were fleeting and the affections only left me hungering for more.
Whether you’d known me a lifetime or if we just met, the hug was brief and the release quick.
At the age of thirty I reached out and touched the hem of the One who knew me best. He returned my tentative touch with one of healing perfection and untainted love. And though I remained guarded, He taught my soul about tenderness.
In time my soul learned to trust again and I met, and eight years later married my husband. He noticed the scarcity of affection within my family, but he took the risk and made me his wife. Cautiously my openly affectionate husband taught me to express the heart’s deep current of emotion. Without hesitation or desperation I learned about the tender mercies of touch.
This summer after a long absence I returned to New England, the place where I am known the best. I was welcomed with unrestrained affection. In one embrace I almost lost my ability to breathe – but for the first time in two score and eleven years I did not push away. With a heart of gratitude I relaxed and received.
I praise God for his many gifts, but today I am grateful for the gift of human touch. Not touch that demands a price I cannot pay, but touch that is conceived in a bottomless well of pure love. I’m grateful that I’ve not only learned to receive, but also give this priceless gift that requires no words.
Imagine a lifetime where you’ve complicated something so simple and beautiful as a hug.