Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Gathering

Each year at Christmas time I watch a 1977 made for television movie called, The Gathering. To most people, my husband included, it is depressing and sad, but for me there is something so real about it, something so actually hopeful that makes me watch it again and again.

The story is about a dying father (played by Ed Asner) who pulls his family back together at Christmas time, after many years of being broken and hurting. The movie shows each grown child in their adult life explaining how much they basically hate their dad and why they should not go to the Christmas Eve 'gathering' at the 'old house.' But of course each of the four grown children do attend and when they walked through the door and saw their father coming to hug them, all their bitterness and hatred seemed to just melt away. For most of them, there was no huge confrontation. No yelling match. No debating who hurt who more. No questions asked. Just a hug and that was enough.

I've thought many times, 'Is it too far fetched? Can years of hurt be wiped away by a simple, honest, bear hug?' And I will tell you, for me, that time and time again the answer to that question has always come back as, 'Yes'.

To share openly, I have a sensitive heart and my feelings get hurt easily. So, when my husband jokes around at my expense I usually don't get the joke-I get hurt. His response when he sees me a hug just for me. It is a hug that is genuine and reassures me that he loves me. The hug not only tells me he loves me, but that he is sorry and I am safe. Magically, the hurt is gone.

Another time I remember having an argument with a dear friend. We forgave each other, but it wasn't until we hugged that I could feel just how much she loved me and the pain disappeared. I tell my children, (every day) "Say you're sorry, ...and now hug." Why? Because there is something about hugging each other that brings on the forgiveness and the healing.

I cherish the way my grandmother used to say it, "LOVE YOU, LOVE YOU, LOVE YOU!" and then she'd  squish me. She loved me and I knew it, not only because she said it in triplicate, but because of the tight hug I received.

So, what's the power in a hug? How can a hug bring healing and forgiveness? Well, I've concluded that we only hug those we love. A hug is the outward sign of the love we have for one another. I know for me I only hug those I love. I mean it. If I feel uncomfortable or shy with someone, as affectionate as a person I am, I'll just shake their hand hello, but if I love you- I give a hug. I think that hugs = love. We can say we love someone, but when we hug them I believe it's communicated much more clearly.

And what do the Scriptures say?

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (1Peter 4:7-9)

We get hurt when we think we are unloved or rejected. When we know we are loved or reminded that we are loved there is healing.  There is a safety that comes from knowing we are loved and forgiveness follows. Again, a hug communicates love and love brings forgiveness.

We know that Jesus, out of His great love, died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. When there is love there is forgiveness and there is healing.

I think one of the greatest Scriptures that speaks to this idea of hugging someone to show love and forgiveness is in, "The Parable of the Lost Son."  Here is a son who disrespectfully and unlovingly demands his inheritance from his living father. The father gives it to him and off the son goes. The son leaves his home, his town and his country. He squandered all the money on sinful living. When the money is gone and he is poor 'he comes to his senses' and decides to go home. The following is what is said about the father's response to his son coming home:

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (Luke 15:21)

The son never had a chance to ask for forgiveness. His father ran to him, hugged and kissed him. The son tried to tell his father, "I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." (Luke 15:21) But the father would hear none of it- his son had returned-he hugged him and forgiveness was waiting for him.

To encourage all of you who are 'gathering' together to celebrate Christmas, hug one another in love. And I don't mean a skimpy hug, I mean a hug-hug. A hug that lets the person know that your heart is bursting with love for them. A hug that says, "No matter what has come between us I love you dearly." A hug that says, "I'm so glad you came. I couldn't imagine Christmas without you." We are called or commissioned to love: "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:35)  Love as the father did- run up to your son, daughter, sister, brother, friend, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, in-law etc. and hug them-love them as Jesus would and allow forgiveness and healing to enter your heart and theirs.

Merry Christmas!!!

1 comment:

  1. you're the best! your hugs are the best! your blogs are the best! what a heart-warming, God-filled, truth-filled blog - I'm so glad you're my wife!