I sort of, like, really, hate hugs.
That statement is mostly true.
I’ve never been the kind of person that craves cuddles and touch from others. You might think, “Poor Jenni. I wonder what happened in her childhood that made her this way . . .”
I have always been this way. My parents used to call me, AS AN INFANT, the “stiff baby.” I didn’t seek out the same comfort as the other babies. I was always independent and stubborn.
There was one exception when I was a child. My dad snored. Naturally, many nights, he ended up sleeping on the couch or in the big, comfy chair. I would often wake up super early, as many preschoolers do (I’m currently praying Ryder sleeps in this morning). Before everyone else was awake, my little 35lb self would crawl up on my dad’s not-so-35lb belly and curl up to go back to sleep.
Affection was on my terms. I wanted to be near him, but only when it was my idea.
Sometimes, it’s fun to look back and see how your child-self turned into an adult-self. I still don’t really like being touched. Some of my friends know I have a thing about people touching my hands, specifically. It’s not a germ thing . . . it’s a touch thing.
I have a good friend who recently called me out on something. She said to me, “Jenni, you have exceptions to this no touching thing. You sometimes come into a room and seek me out to give me a hug.”
I responded to her with a “Ya, so what? You need hugs sometimes. And, I really like you. And, I felt like it.”
She made me think about my response to the people around me. There is not a formula to my weirdness (probably not to yours, either), but I do think there is a general pattern.
I’ve started to think that it isn’t that I hate being touched, it’s that touch means something to me. Even a hug is valuable to me.
I don’t want to just give a hug to anyone because they want to hug me. Relationship, touch, friendship, emotion . . . all of these things are not easy for me to share with people. My opinion on the other hand . . . I’m a bit too free with that . . .
Working with the church, I encounter “huggers” all the time. Greeting me at a weekend gathering. Meeting me for the first time. Responding to Jesus’ prompting on their heart and needing comfort. I actually cannot control the amount of hugs I receive. But, I have realized that being hugged and returning a hug are different things.
Have you ever watched someone who clearly did not want to be touched be engaged in a hug? Their arms stay at their sides or protectively crossed. Their body language leads their face away from the “hug assailant.” It’s actually pretty funny because “huggers” cannot fathom that someone wouldn’t want to be snuggled, so they don’t even notice. I have some snuggly friends, and plenty that are in my camp.
I’m not saying it is a good thing that I am so stingy with affection. But, it is so important to understand yourself — really for one big reason: How you behave affectionately with those you care for can easily bleed into how you respond to God.
I have become well practiced in “being touched” but not reaching back in my human relationships.
I know how to hear God’s voice and I love spending time waiting for Him to speak to me. I have an intellectual trust in my Jesus. I have a cause and effect understanding that God is Good and I have a real need for a Savior because of the brokenness I carry.
But, I am stubborn and independent. I don’t need help. I know the problem and I see the solution. I push myself to the very limit. I can handle it. I can use the tools I have gained from those more experienced than me. I can talk it out. I can read the right book. I can listen to the right message. I can take the right class, join the right group.
There are the moments that I am so emotionally moved by my Redeemer that I cannot be convinced that he is not powerful enough to break through any walls.
But, often, I forget to return the affection. Our God pours out His love for us. Not only back then, with a sacrifice that breathed life into all the death in the world, but now. That He freely offers grace to me, though I constantly give Him the cold shoulder.
Though I choose myself over His way. Though I forget Him. I make the most hurtful choices and my God stands with the affection of a Father — just waiting for me to climb into His arms, just to be near him.
I get to make the choice to relax the hold I keep on my affection and release it to the one who holds all of Creation in his hands, like a fragile child.
Today, I will hug Jesus back. He has been waiting for me.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)