Published in the Rains County Leader on February 14, 2017:
Because I’m the church secretary, I’m sometimes a few minutes late to Sunday School after I make a stop in my office to pick up a form I need someone to fill out or an envelope the treasurer has asked me to deliver. Then, it’s not unusual for someone to stop me before I make it to class to ask me to correct an address or to check the lost and found for a Bible. To tell the truth, I kind of like being one of the last ones to arrive. As I walk down the hall toward the Fellowship Hall where the adults meet, I can hear the sound of funny stories about the work week being told, of concerns for friends and family being exchanged, of lives being shared. It sounds a lot like love.
There’s also a lot of hugging. Between Sunday School and the worship service this past Sunday, I stopped in the ladies’ room to remove a hug smudge from my glasses – one of the many drawbacks of not having perfect vision and of attending a very affectionate church. Since we were having staff pictures taken later in the day, I also checked to be sure I didn’t have a lipstick smear. It seems like hugs that result in smudges are often accompanied by cheek kisses.
Smudged glasses and lipstick smears are a common occurrence on Sunday mornings at Believers’ Baptist. We are a friendly bunch, and along with a number of respected scientists, we believe that people need a certain number of daily hugs to be healthy and happy. Since there’s quite a variance of opinion on exactly what that number is, some of our members make it their mission each Sunday to be sure that everyone in attendance receives enough hugs to last until the following week. One of my friends was talking about the practice of “church hugging” recently.
“I’ve lived alone for almost twenty years,” he said. “I’ll take all the hugs I can get.”
Some people aren’t comfortable with hugs, though, so I try to be sensitive to their discomfort and offer my hand instead. Some of our members, however, won’t settle for a handshake – especially Carol. You can always tell when Carol has met someone new.
“I don’t want your hand. I’m a hugger,” she’ll say as she proceeds to demonstrate the truth of that statement.
Carol gives good hugs, and she seems to know when someone really needs one. She says that she has the spiritual gift of hugs, and I believe it. I’ve received more than a few hug smudges from her, but I’ve also received comfort, warmth, and strength from her hugs. That feels like love, and that’s well worth an extra stop by the ladies’ room.