Have you ever wished you could hug God? I have. Many times. In moments of sadness and joy, I have felt my heart swelling AND tightening, somehow at the same time, still too small to hold all of my feelings. But I never really realized that a hug was what I wanted until March 10, 2022.
I was driving home from the gym after teaching my dance fitness class, and I wasn’t really thinking about anything in particular. Out of nowhere, I was overcome with thankfulness for how God has walked with me and chased me down and protected me over the last few years. I felt God’s presence in the car with me – that’s the only way I can say it. I know from His Word that He is always with me, but I felt His nearness in a new way that night. It felt like He was standing behind me, arms around my shoulders, His chin resting on top of my head, and all I wanted to do was turn around and throw my arms around Him. Tears sprang to my eyes and my breath caught in my throat. I slowly reached my left hand up and put it on my right shoulder, half-expecting to actually feel His arm underneath.
I’m a visual person, and I have had a handful of experiences like this with God throughout my life. Let’s dub them ‘visually tangible.’ I hesitate to call them visions because that word sounds more mystical and ‘woo-woo’ than I want it to, and I don’t believe I have the spiritual gift of prophecy. But to explain it in basic terms, it’s as if I have images or videos playing in my head. Think of it almost like a movie montage. I’m not watching anything happening physically in front of me, and I’m not being transported to another place mentally. It’s just like I’m experiencing a really powerful memory. (But sometimes I see things that haven’t actually happened yet.)
Total transparency – I laughed nervously to myself as I typed that last sentence. Please don’t write me off just yet.
ANYWAY. I was having this moment with God in my car, and I was suddenly struck by other similar moments when I recognized God interacting with me on a human level. For example, I remembered that horrible day in 2020 when I found out that one of my best friends and I had both miscarried our third baby on the same day. I was sitting cross-legged on my bed, my head in my hands, grieving and trying to pray but at a complete loss for words, when an image of God with me flashed into my mind. In this picture, He was sitting across from me on the bed, also cross-legged, forehead pressed against my forehead, His big hands on either side of my face. Just sitting there with me, grieving with me. It still gets me choked up just thinking about it.
These moments are spiritual monuments for me, figurative piles of stones to remind me of the faithfulness of God when I am tempted to forget. And boy, have I needed them. In the last year, my heart has broken over and over. I have felt the ache of intense loneliness. The ache of others moving on with their lives and settling comfortably into new seasons, while I feel stuck in the same place I’ve been for years. The ache of watching dear friends and family suffer the consequences of poor decisions. The ache of friendships changing. The ache of knowing that Daniel and I will never be those two young, dumb kids again. The ache of unfairness. The ache of what should have been, but isn’t.
I’ve needed a lot of God hugs.
And you know what? I’ve gotten them.
Every year, I create a new note on my phone to keep track of special memories. I started doing this in 2020 when I needed a reminder that there were still good things happening in the world and in my life. This year, I added a section called “Moments I savored” to capture specific moments that I was keenly aware of savoring, since ‘Savor’ is my word for the year. Moments like…
The first little snow flurry in January.
Laying on the couch with Daniel, our adopted stray cat sleeping between us.
A quiet night at home, fire in the fireplace, reading a good book.
My heart racing as hid in the shadows, waiting to film Cory and Vic’s engagement.
Scream-singing “Take Me Home Tonight” in the car on the way home from Sherman.
Baylor Briggs falling asleep on me.
Breakfast with the Throners on the day of John and Amanda’s wedding.
Walking in the woods.
Boat rides on Lake Texoma, wind in my hair, drink in my hand, Daniel’s arm around me.
Reading at Opera House Coffee and watching the August rain we desperately needed.
Sitting on the back porch of an Airbnb, listening to the world wake up.
THESE are my God hugs.
Whether we feel Him with us or not, God NEVER leaves us, and our knowledge of that truth should lead us to thankfulness. His unfailing love is a constant comfort (Psalm 119:76). When we learn to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, despite the fact that ‘bad’ things keep happening to us, we start to recognize good gifts from God more quickly. Good things don’t have to be big. And the biggest surprise of all is that sometimes, ‘bad’ things are actually good things in disguise.