I think many of us have had this experience at some point. We are standing in Mass. It is time for the sign of peace. We are near someone we only sort of know. I mean, they aren’t strangers, but they aren’t buddies either.
Do you shake or do you hug?
Sometimes you go in for the hug and they flick out the hand for a shake. Sometimes you go in for a shake and they fling open their arms for a hug. What is a girl (or guy) to do?
It can be an awkward moment. You can end up with a handshake like hug (where you shake and lean in) or you find yourself in a hug-like handshake (where you shake, but you rest your other “extra” flailing arm on their shoulder pretending that is where it was headed all along.) Awkward.
(Stick with me. This reflection has nothing to do with postures in Mass or being socially clumsy.)
Our God loves us. He has been telling me this everyday for quite some time now. Over and over and over.
As children we hear these words often: “God loves you.” We put these three words on little smiley faced stickers we pass out at Sunday school. We learn it in simple rhyming songs (“Jesus loves me this I know . . .”). But as adults it can be the hardest three words to accept and believe!
It seems so very un-believable that after all we’ve done and how far we’ve wandered that He could still love us. But He does.
God loves us. God loves me. God loves you.
I have this mental image of myself sometimes. God comes to me eager and longing to love me, to embrace me. He runs to me with arms open (picture the father in the prodigal son story) and He is dying (literally, He did that on the cross!) to love me . . . and I flick out my hand for an awkward, distanced, formal handshake.
Perhaps I am lazy (a good embrace requires more effort), ashamed (of what I’ve done or how far I’ve wandered), or timid (because His love transforms and change is scary). Whatever my reason, one too many times, I have chosen the handshake over the embrace.
Not anymore. I’m ready (and eager, though still slightly timid) to embrace and receive God’s love.
Whether we hug or shake to wish our neighbor the sign of peace is not my concern here.
But the next time (and that moment would be right now . . . and now . . .and again now . . . ) that God wants to embrace us, fling open your arms wide. And let Him.